Wednesday 31 October 2012

Quiet Confrontation

I had posted earlier in the year about comments.
Our blog works best when our readers participate.

Since then, many people have left their opinions,
but for the most part, our comment section gathers dust.

What's odd is that many of my posts are controversial, opinionated, and sometimes offensive.
The intention is not to cause trouble but to start debates and bring certain issues to the forefront.

In many cases, I incriminate myself by talking about subversive activism,
anti-government sentiments,
and supporting good judgement in place of the rule of law.

This blog is a public account of our private lives.
We try to exist below the radar and out of the watchful eye of government,
but it's challenging to keep secrets when you write about everything you do on a public forum.
Some people think that my honesty will cause me problems down the road.
This is probably true.
But I won't live my life in fear when the truth is so important.

We are very passionate about our lifestyle and our choices.
Not just at night on the blog, but during every moment of every day.
There is more to lifestyle than simply method and routine.
Consequence follows every action; both good and bad.
Inertia propels us but also acts against us.

I posted recently about being caught by the township, building our schoolhouse without a permit.
Though many people would sympathize with us,
others feel strongly about a country built on the rule of law and strict adherence to those laws.
It was someone we know who informed government.
The concern was that we are building over the property line,
though no one approached us in person about the issue.

Had they done so, I would have shown them a well marked property stake (proven by my other neighbour's recent survey),
and a line that we have obviously not crossed.
Perhaps by confronting me, they feared finding themselves in the wrong and making an unjustified accusation.
I would prefer to face my accuser.

Instead I received vitriolic comments on the blog.

In truth, it's better than silence.
I've been waiting for some confrontational commentary on our activities.
This isn't the subject I'd hoped to open up, but we're still just starting out.

To be fair, I insulted the head of a very large family.
Not without just cause, but disparaging none the less.
I stand by my words however.
And I will stand my ground.

We write and express our life through our own experience.
I don't like to be intentionally offensive, but a spade is a spade.
There's a weakness in our society when we turn on each other.
We've been conditioned to use the law to settle disputes rather than solving or preventing issues through good faith and open discussion.
The internet has now opened a new way of striking out at each other in lieu of standing up to a person face to face.
I may be just as guilty of that through our blog.

So once again, if you feel strongly about something I say or do,
if you don't want to confront me directly, you can leave a comment on our blog.
I don't even mind if the comments are anonymous.
It's better than silence.


Tuesday 30 October 2012

Building the Garlic Garden, by Kira

Though rainy and windy most of the day it was still mild.
I spent a better part of the afternoon in the new garlic garden!

I was able to fill my garden.
The rows are about a foot apart and the soil turned down
about a foot to loosen it up.
Bulbs are planted about 6 inches apart.
I laid shavings between the rows and leaves on top of the freshly
planted garlic.

My little helper watched from my back.

This is the 2012 main vegatable garden.
It is now full of next year's garlic!
The spot in the center will become a hugelkultur bed.
We do not want to dig this spot.
It is the resting place of a raccoon and an old hen.
Nutrients for the plants.

I ran out of room but there is still lots of garlic left.
There will be a few more small garlic beds to build.
I am hoping to have planted enough garlic for us to eat and for planting
next year. That should work out to about 450 cloves into the ground.
I hope to have it all in the ground before the snow settles in.


Monday 29 October 2012

Ready or not...

Are you prepared?

Sunday 28 October 2012

Rainy Night Work

There's no stopping the clock on the farm so we can't let the weather or the dark days of fall slow us down.
In fact, this is the final stretch before the snow comes.
I always figure on the third week of November as the deadline.
But that doesn't mean it ends there.

This Fall the weather has been cold and wet.
After a summer of drought it feels wrong to complain about the rain,
but it's been incessant.
I'm behind schedule on everything, so every moment counts.
It's time to break with a routine that revolves around the sunlight.
There's no reason to be afraid of the dark.

I have talked about setting up our infrastructure in order to cope with the heat of the summer.
The same rigging should keep us going during the Winter.
It just means some warmer clothes and preparations for snow.
I normally use the good weather for outdoor work and the poor weather for indoors.
It works when the balance is right, but if it's all rain,
nothing would get done outside.

Electricity really shines here and it would be difficult to do without it.
Having no power wouldn't be horrible though.
It would just mean getting more down time when it's dark.
I may have a change of heart over the years and leave the dark of night for sleeping.

For now though, there's work to be done.
Portable gear helps you roll with the different conditions.
A great big shop would be nice, but that's a pretty hefty luxury.
Ingenuity will suffice for now.
Do what you can with what you have.
I have lights and some shelter.
And that's enough.

Saturday 27 October 2012


Homesteading means building.
This is still the "New World" and development continues.
Even if you are on an old farm, there will be repairs and improvements.
So you will need to buy some lumber at one point or another.

Buying the wood that you need is simple enough.
You go to the store, tell them what you're doing, and they will sell you what you need.
The lumber stores are usually pretty helpful and honest.
But when it comes to shopping around and knowing that you're getting your money's worth,
you need to know a little before you start.


First of all, wood is sold by different denominations.
Sometimes by item; like a spruce 2x6x8 costs $6.00.
Also by lineal foot; like v-joint pine at $1.00 per foot.
Wood flooring can be sold by area; $3.50 per square foot.
But the basic unit of measurement is the board foot.
A board foot is one inch thick, 12 inches wide, and 12 inches long.
Understanding and converting into board feet helps you compare different products or gives you a better idea of how the wood product is being priced.

Here's an example.
You would like to buy some building lumber.
One store is selling by unit. An 8' 2"x6" is priced at $5.60.
Another is selling by board foot. All wood is $.55 per board foot.
Each lineal foot of a 2x6 is a board foot. (1x12x12=144, 2x6x12=144)
At $5.60 divided by eight equals $.70. That means a difference of $.15 per board foot.
If you don't know the conversion, you could pay more than necessary.


Keep in mind that as wood is processed, there is value added to it.
Processing means a portion of the lumber is removed through planing and that a one inch thick piece of finished wood won't actually measure a full one inch, but it is still identified as being one inch.
So don't try to haggle someone down because the wood is thinner than it's called.
You may notice that if you buy wood that has only been milled into a board and has not been smoothed by a planer, that the dimensions are usually the nominal measurement.
That is, a 2x6 is actually two inches thick and six inches wide.
Normal store bought lumber has been planed and so a 2x6 will really measure 1.5"x5.5".

Often there is simply no haggling when it comes to the lumber stores.
But it helps to know when someone is gouging the unsuspecting public especially when it comes to high demand woods like red cedar.


Another helpful bit of info is that lumber stores will usually accept returned lumber.
This is not unusual if you have over bought, but you can also ensure that you aren't sold really poor quality lumber.
If you don't like what you bought then send it back.
Just because the lumber has been graded and stamped doesn't mean there is an implied quality
I just bought 2x4s from the lumber store and found that half of them are really poor.
I'll keep them because of their intended use, but had I bought them for making furniture or for building an precision product, I would have sent them back.
Ideally, find a local mill and buy local.
I ended up in a bind so I used the lumber store instead of my neighbour.

One last tip.
When your wood arrives from the lumber store, it will be stacked together.
That's how they store and ship the wood.
It's not ideal however.
Lumber is best stored with spacers called stickers.
The stickers helps keep the wood dry and aid in keeping the wood stable and straight.
My lumber from my neighbour Paul always comes stickered and is as straight as an arrow.
The store bought stuff comes in a pile and if you let it dry out like that,
it will twist and warp.
When your wood arrives, stack it with the stickers if you plan on holding it for any length of time.
You can find stickering instructions online.


Friday 26 October 2012

Pioneering Renaissance

There's a disheartening irony to the fact that the number of people farming has dropped dramatically for decades.
The farmers are leaving and so are their children.
You would think that with the local food movement underway that there would be lots of people to take over for the families that are leaving the farms.
The irony is that while farming is unpopular as an occupation, the farm land is highly sought after.
And that excludes many of the aspiring new farmers because the prices are normally beyond the reach of young people starting out.

I do hate to disparage the folks who have bought up farms to enrich their lives, but in most cases, the properties become hobby farms for pets and horses.
I've read blogs where people wax romantic about beautiful walks on their two hundred acre farm, which in most cases is left fallow to be enjoyed as a private agricultural reliquary.
Often it is a professional couple who both work and have no children who have the financial resource to buy up the vacant farms.
Some choose to farm the land; many do not.

In the mining sector, you cannot hoard valuable land for long without extracting resource.
Claims must be followed through or they expire after some time.
This ensures that natural resources continue to add to the nation's GDP and that land does not sit idle.
One day, this same regulation style may be necessary for farmland to keep arable land in rotating production.
Until then, there is another solution.

Land that is north of the Canadian Shield line is notoriously rough, rocky, and desolate.
There are pockets of farmland in use, but most of the rugged north is barren of settlement and food production.
land is much more affordable.
The trade-offs are consistent.

Small communities.
Few jobs.
Even fewer good paying jobs.
Infertile land.
Biting flies.
Sparse market opportunities.
Short growing season.
Minimal agricultural infrastructure.

Although, you would be surprised by the number of old farmsteads that dot the near north.
It's just that people gave up trying to farm the land years ago.

The disparity between central and southern Ontario is considerable.
It is however, important to consider more than just the differences within Ontario.
Consider how we differ from the rest of the world.
A little research will show you that most of the world survives in less than perfect places.
One of the great advantages that North America owes it's status to is the fact that much of the continent is excellent for food production.

Back in shield country you will notice that despite the apparent lack of fertility,
trees and plants and animals thrive in abundance.
So why couldn't the land be made to grow food for us?
The problem has been trying to transfer agricultural methods from the south to the north.
It simply isn't the same land and cannot be farmed in exactly the same way.
When markets were more restrictive due the the limited culinary preferences of the U.K. immigrants, it was difficult to sell unusual produce.
Now that our population is more diverse and the collective palate has moved well beyond english staples, there is the opportunity to cultivate produce that best suits the land instead of growing produce that best suits the markets.
Coupled with easier access to global agricultural methods and cultivars, the options for bringing marginal lands into production have multiplied.

Even though the government is no longer giving land away, there remains a viable direction for the pioneering spirit.
The challenge is coping with the financial demands that come with the western standard of living.
Keep in mind that the cost of living is lower once you get beyond the shield line.
That is especially true if your mortgage is one-third of what it might be living in southern Ontario.

If you wish you could have been a settler,
moving into shield country comes with far fewer risks than those brave souls faced hundreds of years ago.
Start by looking at the real estate listings.
Look at the prices and features.
Forget about job propects for now.
You are not looking for a career.
You are looking for a lifestyle.

Wednesday 24 October 2012


There should be a photo here of a municipal official wandering around our yard without having announced his arrival. He helped himself to walking on my still curing concrete walkway, and snooped about without even knocking on the door first.
Of course, trespass laws do not apply to by-law enforcement officers.

There's no point in being quiet about it anymore.
We didn't apply for a building permit to make the schoolhouse legal.
The by-law enforcer came by today and has seen everything.

Now all of you good citizens out there who think I should have toed the line to begin with, can carry on following bureaucratic rules and regulations.
I refuse to jump through hoops for the sake of satisfying the inane desires of a bloated and misdirected civil bureaucracy.

I understand that rules need to be made to keep your neighbour from building on your property,
but applying regulation in shotgun fashion with no discretion fosters an enforcement system that is a loyal tool of authority.

My only offence is not filling out the paperwork, and the paperwork,
and the paperwork.
The fee is minimal; that wasn't my reason.
I don't want the supervision.
We don't conform, and neither does our lifestyle.
So whenever we don't meet the criteria for normal people living normal lives,
we find ourselves at odds with the establishment.

We certainly have not filed for every permit out there for everything that we do.
I understand the importance of our safety, our clean drinking water, our effective sewage system, the sensitive nature of our creek and wetlands.
I know where the property lines are even though there is no formal survey.
In fact, the requirements of the building permit include providing a site survey of the property lines and building locations.
I could make it all up and there would be no reference to prove me wrong.

Now I will have to draw up a site plan.
I will also need to draw a building plan.
Even though the official was here, everything needs to be on file.

It is a great deal of time and money wasted on nothing.
And don't give me the old slippery slope argument.
That has already happened, but in the direction of a runaway civil oversight system that behaves like a school hall prefect.

Who is developing renewable energy for the municipality?
Who is implementing a food production strategy?
Who is working to eliminate poverty?
No one.
They're too busy handing out tickets for dogs with no licence,
neighbours who like loud music,
and smoky outdoor boilers,
God help us if they ever try to enforce the lawn care by-laws here.

I am not upset that I didn't get a permit in the first place.
I am not upset that I got caught.
What disturbs me is that someone felt it was their civic duty to ensure that we conform to the letter of the law.
Ask me if there is anything that I am afraid of and I will tell you that it is those people.
Those people who are the mindless foot soldiers of the state;
willing to do it's bidding without pause for thought.

All I want is a little schoolhouse.
All they want is for me to conform.


Tuesday 23 October 2012

Mixing Cement

Cement is an incredible chemical soup that we always take for granted.
It's grey and usually lifeless.
It supports us everywhere, yet is ubiquitously known for being drab, boring, and carries the stigma of cold urban infrastructure.
There is a calculated reason that it has been restricted in Gaza.
Cement builds structure like no other material.

A little tip if you live in snow country...or rain country too.
Never build doorways or other entrances where a roof sheds snow or water.
So when building our schoolhouse, the entrance needed to be placed at the gable end of the building.
One step further; we used the woodshed as the entrance to fend of the elements before reaching the door.

Today's project needed materials, but all of them were leftovers.
Some cement, pressure treated lumber, off-cuts of styrofoam insulation, steel re-bar, and a piece of plywood.
All of these materials are based from toxic chemicals.
I suffer through their use, but am at a loss for natural alternatives.
Cedar and stone would suffice had I not the waste from other jobs.
But there is no equivalent in nature for concrete...
...other than hot lava!
(Which, by the way, I do not possess the appropriate safety gear for.)

The ramp to the door is a form made of a sheet of plywood and a frame.
The wood only holds the cement until it dries.
I used steel bars to both strengthen the cement mix and join the ramp to the building.
The bars go right through the wood into the end joist.
The concrete is heavy and needs as much support as possible.
Once it cures, it provides much of it's own support.

Cement mixing instructions are on the bag.
Ready-mix only needs water, but they skimp on the important parts.
Mix your own if you can.
Get a cement truck if it's over a cubic yard.
Many people rent a power float to finish the concrete.
I use a piece of wood on a stick.
Keep it simple.
Look up instructions on floating concrete online.
They say to bring the 'cream to the top' which is a euphemism for drawing the cement paste to the surface, but if you get carried away, the surface will flake off after it dries.
Also, working the surface too much allows the mix to settle out so the stone will sink to the bottom.
It's better to a have the aggregate evenly distributed.

Chicken tracks look great if you have no OCD.
Myself, I had to wait until chicken bedtime so I could repair the surface.
When the weather is dry and warm, you won't have much time.
The damp and cool air gave me a second chance to make things right.
Yes, I know.
The chicken tracks look pretty cool.
But they also kicked dirt on the walkway, and pooped on it too.
It needed to be smoothed out again.

You can probably tell that Kira thinks it's funny when I indulge myself.
Perhaps you can see your reflection in the carefully smoothed concrete.
Yes it's smooth.
So smooth.
I'm sorry...
..what were we talking about?


Monday 22 October 2012

Lochlin Esker & Wetlands, by Kira


Esker: a winding, narrow ridge of gravel and
sand deposited by a stream flowing within (englacial)
or under (subglacial) a retreating glacial sheet.

What a fun day! The kids and I spent the day at Lochlin Esker & Wetlands.
We enjoyed a day hiking with a few other homeschool families through four different kinds of wetlands.
Black spruce treed bog
Mixed Treed Bog
Open marsh

And walked along the esker's ridge!

Irene led us along boardwalks and trails, teaching us about the wetland, esker and the flora and fauna that live and grow within it.

This beautiful property is owned by the Wright family.
Don Wright warmly welcomed our crew and gave us an introduction to this special wetland.

If you would like to visit the Lochlin Esker & Wetland you can email Don at

Such a wonderful day!
Thank-you Don Wright for sharing this special land with us.
Irene Heaven it was a wonderfully guided trip. We look forward to coming back!