Posts Tagged ‘acreage’

I was out in the windbreak along the driveway the other day, trimming and sawing down windfallen trees, and thinking.  You get to do a fair bit of thinking when you’re doing work like that, because it’s mostly just repetitive motion, using your muscles and leaving your brain free to idle.   I had a lot of sawing to do, and I was worried that I’d work myself so hard that I’d have trouble brushing my hair the next morning.  I was feeling just the teensiest bit sorry for myself, and thinking that an acreage has to be just about the world’s most expensive gym membership.


A lot of work

A lot of work!

Then I heard some noise above me, and looked up to see not one or two, nit even five or ten, but fourteen cranes flying overhead.    I sat in the grass and watched them fly for a while.


It might be an expensive gym membership, but having an acreage is also cheap therapy!

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April 1st, 2003, I was working at a job I didn’t like very much, living in a place I often found quite lonely.  I had just gotten a dog (Fox) from the SPCA, and was on the road a lot between where I worked in Alberta and where my family lived in Saskatchewan, 8 hours away.  My grandma was in the hospital, with cancer.  It was not a very happy time.


April 1st, 2006, I was kicking back in a little ocean town in Morocco, writing a joke email to my family that I had been hired as a camel tour operator.  I had taken a year off work to travel, and had been away from Canada for around five months by that time.  I can still smell how that little town smelled, with its cooking tagines and salt and rotting fish.   I had been in Morocco for a few weeks, and was heading up to meet a friend in Portugal.   I took a surfing lesson from a man who spoke no English, and (mostly) survived, though I did get a board to the face.


April 1st, 2007, was around the time I met Hubby.  Neither of us remembers the exact date, but it was Easter time.  Our first date was at a little 50’s diner, and we showed up driving matching little white beater cars.  I remember the way his huge hands engulfed his coffee cup, which he turned around and around, a sweet nervous gesture.


April 1st 2009, Hubby and I were in Guatemala, backpacking there and in Belize for a month, as a ‘honeymoon’ prior to getting married.  We lost our luggage, climbed a volcano (well, okay, I hired a horse), poked around some incredible ruins, watched the Easter parades in Antigua, and had a grand old time.   We traveled so well together!  I knew then, for sure, that we were a truly good match.


April 1st, 2011, we had just taken official possession of our acreage in Saskatchewan.  We (I) got enthusiastic, and ordered fifty day-old chickens, four goats, and a tractor to plow up an enormous garden.  We survived.  Barely, some days, and with chickens in our tub for a week, but we survived.


April 1st, 2012, I was getting ready for baby M’s arrival, painting, cleaning, re-arranging the house, and planning the garden.


Today, I am bottle-feeding three goats, getting ready for three does to kid, and have just ordered another twenty-five day old chicks.  We’re planning another big garden, and I already have a ton of plants started, with plans to plant a whole bunch more next weekend.  I go back to work at the end of the month, and Baby M is finally starting to eat and sleep predictably.   He’s an awesome kid.


I am a very lucky girl.  It’s been an amazing decade.



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…And I really mean that.

We’ve pared down our grocery bill, we’ve been skimping on heat, turning out lights and appliances as soon as they’re not needed,  and watching our water use like hawks.  We’re doing things the hard way, digging post holes by hand, rather than hiring a guy with a tractor, and wearing shoes with holes in them.  This lifestyle is still costing us a small fortune.

It would probably be cheaper if we had opted to ease into this whole project, by maybe just putting in a garden this year and getting chickens next year, or planting a couple of fruit trees each year, rather than a hundred at once.  Unfortunately, I am not patient that way.  While we are not exactly throwing money around frivolously, the infrastructure is a big up-front cost, along with the up-front cost of obtaining the seeds, and tools, and livestock, and feed.  Then there are the fruit and nut trees, and the shelterbelt.  This is not to mention the truck we are going to need, nor the tractor, nor the lost wage from Hubby switching from a day job to doing the farm work.  Once we’ve gotten all of these things in order, then it will be cheap to maintain, but for now, sticker shock is getting to me.

I guess it is the same as anything else, though – you get what you pay for.  You can get a mid-price pair of solid boots that will last for a few years, or you can buy your footwear on the installment plan, paying $20 every few months, which always seems to cost me more in the long run.  We do the same thing with groceries – buy in bulk, and pay more at a time, but less per pound.  In that vein, we’ve chosen to go with papered livestock, because the offspring will be worth more when it comes time for us to sell, so in the long run, it will make us more money.  In the meantime, I console myself with the thought that I bought four (!)  goats for less money than we spent on a week in Cuba last fall.  The goats will last longer, at least.   It is just that now we need a barn,  and hay, and straw, and buckets, and a pitchfork, and a fence, and and and…I can see why you need to inherit a farm in order to be profitable at it.  And that’s just the goats!

Someday, I hope, we won’t be paying for groceries, and we’ll be getting better quality (free range, organic, etc) as well.  Someday, I hope, we can sell eggs and milk and goats and produce, and get some (or all!) of the outlay back.  For now, though, we spend and spend and spend…

I sure am glad we saved up for this, but I’ve got to say, much like everyone else I’ve ever spoken to who has purchased a house or an acreage, I underestimated what this was going to cost.

Which is not to complain.  Every morning, seeing all of the ducks and geese and patchwork fields full of tractors and cows, I remember how unspeakably lucky I am just to be here in this place.  Hubby and I are very happy here, and although it is only supposed to be a temporary stop, we’ve fallen quite in love with this acreage.  I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be right now, nor anything else I would rather be doing…I just wish we could do it all a little cheaper, somehow…

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Shoveling snow is not generally my favorite activity.  In fact, at the house in Alberta, my usual solution to snowfall was to drive in and out of the driveway a couple dozen times, until it was nicely packed down.  It worked for all the years I lived there!


On the acreage, however, it does not work quite like that.  As little as half an inch of snow, or even no snow at all, seems to turn into a knee-deep drift in only a few hours, if the wind is brisk.  This morning, after what would have amounted to a little skiff of snow in town, I had to take a real run at the driveway to get out.  Then, after almost hitting the ditch four times in a mile and a half, I turned around and came home again.


I am not sure how long the driveway really is, maybe twice as long as a city block, but I can attest that it seems to be about fifteen miles when you are trying to clear knee-deep drifts out of it with a scoop shovel.   It would be easier with a proper shovel, but Hubby managed to break the other one, the last time it snowed.  It is also pretty disheartening to finally get to the end of the drifts, only to have the snowplow swoosh past and deposit another foot or so across the mouth of the driveway.


This would be somewhat easier to cope with if we had a 4×4 truck, instead of an ancient Corolla and a Saturn sportscar.  I see a major vehicle purchase in our near future…

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Well, the move was the usual disaster, in -35, with three howling cats, and a truck that was ever so slightly too small for all of our things.  However, we got here, marriage intact and sanity mostly so, sans bicycles and barbeque.  We were glad for the end of that drive, though, I must say.


We got to the acreage, let ourselves in, and switched on the kitchen light.  Nothing.  Hmm.  Grabbed the flashlight and tried to turn on the tap on the sink.  Nothing.  Grr.  Tried light switches all over the house, and established that the last folks had taken all of the lightbulbs except for the one in the hallway and one in a bedroom.  In addition, there was a shiny new pump beside the cistern, but it wasn’t running.  Too tired to fight with these things, we wrestled the mattress out of the truck, dragged it to a bedroom, and crashed for the night.


The next day, Friday, the neighbours / owners / landlords popped by at about noon, to help us unload the truck.  I don’t think they realized what they had signed up for.  We worked them hard moving in all of the books and appliances until the truck was three-quarters done, then fed them a cup of coffee and sent them on their way with jars of jam and pickles.  We mentioned that the water pump was off, and one fellow piped up that they had not turned it on, as there was not enough water in the cistern.  I thought that was odd, but figured he knew better.  It was too late to order a water truck, but I resolved to call someone in the morning.  In the meantime, we started hauling in buckets of snow, to melt in order to flush the toilet and such – luckily we brought several large containers of drinking water with us in the move.


By the way, ten gallons of hard packed snow melts down into about half a toilet flush.  The melting takes about half an hour in to big pots with the stove on max.  Even letting the yellow mellow, we spent about two hours a day melting enough water for flushing alone.  Then there was the water for doing dishes, the stuff for boiling eggs and pasta, water for washing us, and the stuff for the dogs to drink.  All in all, that stove was running almost constantly while we were awake, melting water.  Outside the drinking water, I think we were using at least 15 gallons per day.  That’s a lot of melting.


Anyhow, on Saturday, I called the water guy, and relayed what the owners had told me about the cistern being too empty.  He knew our place, and immediately asked what had happened to the half a truck of water he dumped in a few weeks back.  I told him that, as far as I knew, it was still there.  He laughed and told me to go start up the pump.  I laughed and asked him how.  After being verbally walked through the basics of pump priming and operation, I went down and fired her up.


The pump worked fine, but the heavy leak dripping steadily onto the pump’s electrical box was a bit of a problem.


We shut the pump down, and called the owners / landlords again, to say that someone needed to come over and fix the leaky pipe so that we could flush the toilet.  Instead, they showed up with a five gallon bucket of water, and promised to call the plumber on Monday.


On Wednesday, the plumber actually showed up.  He fixed a number of things, but neglected to try flushing the toilet or running the shower.  We were delighted to have running water at the sink tap, and did not check that everything worked.  Which was quite unfortunate.


After everyone had gone, I flushed the toilet, and more than half the tank water ran out the back and onto the floor.  Then, after cleaning up the mess, I went to have a nice, long, hot shower, but that was also a bust, as the lever to run the tap into the shower did not work properly, and no water would come out of the shower head.  In the meantime, we’ve been using the bathroom by the light of the oil lamp, as somebody broke a bulb in the bathroom light fixture, and it was so corroded in there that attempts to pry it our just broke the fixture.


Oh, and we don’t have a fridge, either, as the opening in the cupboard is too small for a standard unit, and the cupboards were built in such a way that we can’t just remove one unit.   With no internet, no truck, and no time to phone around to try and find a model that might fit, we have been putting our cream and such in rubbermaid containers in the mudroom, which is cool anyhow, and balancing buckets of snow on top of the food.  It has worked fairly well, actually.


The internet guy came today and hooked us all up, so, perversely, we had high speed internet before we had a flushing toilet in this house.  Go figure.


Tonight, I stopped by the hardware store, picked up a $3 gasket, and fixed the toilet.  Thank goodness I’m a little handy.  If only the shower were so easy, but apparently the taps we have will be a special-order item.  The light fixture will be a weekend project, as we’ll need daylight to deal with it, and I am back to work, now, leaving before dawn and coming home not long before dusk.  The fridge, actually, can wait, as the current system is working fine.


All in all, we do love this house, but we can’t wait until we get actual possession so we can start fixing her up…

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Well, Friday I made a run out to the new place with a car load of stuff.  The seller / new landlord was there, shoveling the last bit of the driveway with a scoop shovel.


I stopped to introduce myself and shake  his hand – he seemed like a very kind fellow.  He had cleared about an acre of our driveway and yard, as a turnabout for the U Haul, which he thought we were bringing on Friday afternoon.  Which we weren’t.  And the poor guy had done all that work with a snowblower and a scoop shovel.  I felt terrible.  He said he needed the exercise anyhow.


While I was speaking with the seller, a big ole Saskatchewan beater truck roared up, and another fellow got out – another neighbour from down the road, wanting to check out the new family, since he’d seen my car go by, and knew that we were coming soon.  Seemed like an outgoing guy, with a booming voice and a friendly manner.  I had forgotten about the rural grapevine, though, and was a little taken aback that everyone seemed to know who I was, where I came from, and where I work, and here I did not even know their names or where they lived.  They tried to point out individual homes, but we’re talking 1-2 miles away, so it was questionable whether or not I really was looking at the right clump of pine trees…


As I was getting back into my car to pull up the drive and start unpacking, the seller handed me a slip of paper with his phone number, and said:


“Well, you will have to call to let us know when to clear your driveway for the truck, and, of course, my Dad and I will be over to help you unload the furniture…”


The City Girl in me wanted to say ‘No, No, we’re fine, we hardly have anything heavy’


The Wanna-Be Country Girl actually said:  ‘Hey, that would be fantastic!  What’s your favorite flavor of jam?  I do a lot of canning…’


Sure hope we’ll fit in okay…

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Well, we’re on the verge of the Big Move, now.  We’ve booked the U-Haul, switched the utilities, arranged for a neighbour to plow the drive, and taken time off work.  Hubby is driving out tomorrow with the houseplants, then we will head back to Alberta for the final packing and loading and cleaning, and…and, well, it’ll be done.


For now, we don’t have an internet connection at the acreage.  We’re not sure how long it might take to get one (or how much it will cost).  So, please bear with us while we’re out of touch…

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It has been an absolute rollercoaster of a week.


My car was acting up, and running really, really rough.  Like, on three cylinders rough.   Bad news.


We got a call from the realtor, indicating that the surveyor had been sick, and had to postpone the final survey.  Bad news.


Work decided to send me to Alberta for training, so I got a (paid-for) rental car and spent last week with Hubby and the critters  Good News.


The realtor called again and indicated that possession will have to be pushed back, again, possibly now into March.  Really, really bad news – we gave notice in Alberta, and have no choice but to move out prior to the end of February.


I finally looked under the hood of the car, and realized that the problem was a plug wire that has been rubbing on the battery, exposing the actual wire.  It had been running rough because of moisture getting in, probably.  I fixed it with some lock de-icer (to drive out the moisture) and fifty cents’ worth of electrical tape.  Good News.


I wrote a letter to the seller of the acreage, begging them to let us rent the place until the possession date, rather than leaving us homeless for a couple of weeks.  They accepted.  YAY!  GOOD NEWS!!


So, the ongoing saga of how not to buy an acreage continues…



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The Home Inspection

So, the home inspector came for a visit on Saturday.  He really took his time with the place, clearing snow off the roof to see the shingles, climbing around in the attic, digging in the chimney, and generally poking around.


My realtor and I arrived at the end of the process, and the inspector gave us a tour with a summary of his results.  Mostly, he was quite upbeat about the place – he raved about how straight and true the house was, a shock, given its age.  He was impressed with the floor joists (2×10!  On 16 inch centers!) , the beams (two!  only one was necessary!), and the rafters (2×6 on 16 inch centers), and tossed around words like “overbuilt”.  He then reassured me that this was a good thing.  He was even impressed with the foundation and footings.


He specifically noted that the chimney is in perfect condition, and that if we wanted a wood stove in the kitchen, it would be a plug-and-play sort of deal.  Sweet.


There were really only three little(!) issues.  First, it is only 70 amp electrical service, and they doubled up on some of the breakers, which is illegal and not overly safe.   When I asked exactly how ‘not overly safe’ it was, the inspector gave me a wry grin and pointed out that the house hasn’t burned down…yet.  Secondly, the bathroom had suffered a moisture problem, which was going to mean replacing all of the gyprock, and repainting.  We had already guessed that one, so no worries there.


The really bad news was in the cistern.  Our only actual water supply at the moment.  It is watertight, and huge, so no issues there.   I had taken a quick peek on a prior tour of the house, and had not seen any mouse carcasses or anything – it was dry at the time.  However, the sellers had partially filled it, so that the inspector could check the water systems.  When we looked in this time, there was a nasty surprise…fluffy whitish mold balls, floating on the surface.  There must have been mold on the walls, though I had not noticed it previously.


My first instinct is – no problem.  Drain the cistern, hop down there with a stiff brush and a bucket of bleach, and issue solved.  This is a great plan…except that the access is about 14 x 16 inches, and under a counter, to boot.   The only way to get an actual person down there will be to cut a hole in the kitchen floor.  Oh, and those 16″ on center floor joists?  Those mean that whoever we send down there will have to be pretty skinny…

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…As you may guess, it’s been a little…chilly…here in N. Saskatchewan.  Something like minus 38 (Celcius) on Sunday night, and -34 last night.  While I have seen these temps every winter in Alberta, I am woefully under-prepared for them here.  For starters, I forgot to pack my heavy parka.  Which sucks.


I also do not have a place to plug in the block heater on the car.  Technically, if everybody else would quit parking in my spot, I could, but things have not worked out that way.  Monday morning, the starter just squealed, as the belt was so frozen it would not turn the motor over for the first couple of tries.  That was after five minutes of fiddling with the frozen ignition (did not want to turn) with fumbly cold fingers.  You just can’t do delicate stuff like that with mittens on.  Then, I went to scrape the frost off the windshield, and my (plastic) scraper shattered, as it was just that cold, and I must have bumped it on something.  Unfortunately, the area where I am staying is not the sort of place you leave a car running and unlocked, even an old beater like mine.  Even more unfortunately, I also left my spare key in Alberta.  So, I get to sit in my -38 car with the defrost fan on full blast, making it -56 with the windchill inside, or go shiver on the sidewalk instead.


On the bright side, it is supposed to be melting (or close to it) by Thursday, and I have a hot date with the home inspector set for Saturday.  After the little spat with the surveyors last week they have scheduled us for Friday morning, which means the February 11th possession date is probably out, but February 18th is still possible.


Wish us luck!

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