for heat’s sake.

Yesterday, the good people working on our house finished smashing all of the cement brick off. Seeing the brick gone makes me very happy. Pretending we have a cute little black house is a bonus.



Two cool things about this. One : the contractors we’re working with found a cement recycling place nearby so instead of trucking and landfilling these bricks, or of hiding them somewhere on the farm, the bricks are going to be ground up and turned into a road (hit the road, brick!). Two : tearing off the brick allowed us to discover that, at the south east corner of the house, termites had eaten their way to the gyprock. Eek. Also, there was exactly zero insulation in the walls. Which explains us being cold after burning, say, 16 cords of wood.



Which brings us to this ! The gift of warmth and lower hydro bills. (It felt like supreme adulting to write a cheque for thousands of dollars’ worth of insulation, let me tell you).



Other fun surprises: the pints of pistachio shells found all around the walls, the handfuls of straw and bird faeces along the roof overhang, and the missing wool insulation along the windows. The insects, mice and birds have been well fed and well housed in and by this home.


The plan now is to finish the outer insulation, seal it well, and get started on insulating the basement. This means pouring a new floor with tubing for eventual in-floor heating, insulating the walls,  and drywalling (drywall is pretty fascinating). We’ve had to empty the basement of its contents to make this happen, which I’m framing as a good opportunity to get rid of our surplus stuffs.

We looked into renting one of those pods for storage (given that barn cats get into everything) but, given costs, we ended up deciding to put it all in our cattle trailer. If you had told me years ago that my boxes of childhood memorabilia would be stored in a cattle trailer, parked just outside my door, I’d’ve chuckled.







Olga passed away tonight.

That fateful Friday morning when it was confirmed that Trump had won the presidency, my dear Olga, scrambled to our front door as I was setting off for the coop. She looked so battered, tripping and tumbling, her paws darkened. I brought her into the house, kept her warm in a basket. It was the worst day. The pinnacle of political and personal powerlessness paired with too much farm work to do.

Two days later, this survivor of a cat jumps out of the basket and starts eating turkey like it’s going out of style. It gave me a ridiculous amount of hope, her coming around. As though it confirmed that small gestures, smalls proofs of love and caring could turn ships around. Maybe not a big U.S. political machine ship, but still, an everyday, caring for diverse one anothers kind of ship.


Given how much time we spend walking in/around manure, and how soiled our farm clothes usually are, we have a pretty strict rule about no animals in the house. It was really such a lovely presence, though, having her in our home. Lovely too to see how gentle the children were, how interested and tender they can be with living things needing rest.

I was sure she’d make it.

She’d even hide when the kids got home from daycare, just to reclaim her space in the foyer the minute they were both in bed. Ces moments de complicité.


Olga had been on the farm since we moved here. She was the barn cat ring leader. She could look so mangy, too lean, but she bounced back every spring. She was by far the most prolific reproducer, so she was the one we ended up having spayed. Afterward, her coat got thicker, her body healthier. She was beautiful.


Friday she stopped eating and moving. She just wanted to hide and lay. My only regret is that I waited so long to call our vet.


(Blessed be the rural (large animal) vets who’ll do house calls late on a Sunday, during the first big snow of the season, to end an animal’s suffering.)




beneath our feet.


Over the last week, we’ve had the opportunity to see whole new parts of our house — with the digging, the laying of a waterproof membrane, of drainage tiles, pipes and layers of rocks, sand, and soil. It’s been fascinating, much like a city sink hole is fascinating. We don’t often think about, much less get a chance to see, what’s beneath our feet, what holds up our world.



The size of some of the cracks along the foundation was pretty impressive. And given the rains that poured right after the dig, for a short while, we did have a sort of moat.

It’s now all been backfilled and we’ll soon be able to use our back door again.



The big victory of the week is that the coop is closer to done! All of the hideous panelling* is gone, replaced with lovely barn board. These boards came from an old family farm in Eastern Ontario. They were selling huge beams, which we had shipped to us. We then hired someone with a portable saw mill, an elderly someone who had clearly been in the trade since boyhood. We used the cedar board for windbreaks for the cattle for the winter. These are the boards we had left over. The hens seem indifferent to the change, but the easier moves will mean more moves, which they’ll appreciate. Now I just need to upgrade their perches.

(* The panelling, in all fairness, also has its history. Those sheets or panelling were the walls of the basement before we gutted it right before moving in. With a cracked foundation and multiple water infiltration spots, we decided that having a finished basement, complete with carpets, was a health and safety risk we weren’t interested in. With the help of good friends, it was all ripped out and whatever was deemed usable, was stored away in the garage. How fitting that we were ripping the panelling off the coop as the foundation was getting fixed.)



Our first year on the farm, we harvested our potatoes from under snow (and a thick layer of frozen soil, which cost us a fair percentage of the harvest). Ever since, harvesting potatoes before significant snow fall has made me feel particularly on top of things. Démesurément. It was a beautiful day for it today. I got 3 of these burlap sacs full. It may just be enough for the rest of the year. And I found the rest of the pumpkins, playing hide and seek in the wilted squash and corn remains. The green ones, Godiva Pumpkins, which are good for pumpkin seeds, I haven’t planted since 2014 (because it’s quite labour intensive to get all those seeds out, cleaned, and dried, and they tasted a fair bit like silage, which isn’t really a taste I want to work hard for).

Gardens are such ordinary and whimsical places.