A Year in Review

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Well suffice to say my blog efforts didn’t quite pan out the way I intended in 2015.  Not to say that progress hasn’t been made on Our Old Island Home, I just haven’t been faithful in sharing our progress with you.

Vanessa and I have been working full time at our new jobs.  I’m with Paul Davis Systems, an insurance-related restoration contractor on the island.  Vanessa is working at Cavendish Farms, processing one of PEI’s grandest commodities.

The gardens did equally well for us this year as the previous year.  We had greater success with some of our crops – our winter squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, garlic and onions were not only superior to 2014, but provided above and beyond our needs for the year.

Some of the successes in 2014 however, were failures in 2015.  Our corn was one such crop.  Between the dry summer, our neglect resulting from working full-time to just bad luck we didn’t have a single ear come to maturity.  Most formed on the plant, but went directly to the chickens where the ears were picked (pecked?) clean.  Our beets and cucumbers didn’t come to much this year either.  I blame the new garden plots we haphazardly prepared in the spring for their lack of contribution to our table.

Otherwise, the remaining crops (carrots, potatoes, turnip, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peas, greens and zucchini) did as well as the previous year’s effort.

The hen house welcomed six new layers this year.  We did lose a couple of birds, but the remaining nine hens are providing, on average, seven eggs per day.  We’ve been selling our excess eggs to friends and co-workers.  The sales cover the cost of feeding the birds, but even still as I’m writing this, we have thirteen-dozen eggs in our fridge.  Vanessa has already frozen a couple dozen eggs for baking (yes, that’s do-able) and I’ll be pickling a couple dozen this weekend.  No, I’ve never had a pickled egg, but a co-worker of mine suggested it.  Hey, I’m game to try anything.

As the gardening season was drawing to a close, our attention was refocused on the house restoration.  This year, we completed the insulation in the attic, installed several new windows on the second floor, started taping and seamfilling the drywall, started setting the piers for the new porch and framed the floor for the new mudroom addition.  With fall coming to an end and winter bearing down on us, the added insulation, vapor barrier and windows will make for a much more, um, comfortable winter than last year.

That’s what’s been happening here.  On a more personal note, here’s how we’re doing:  good.  Very good, in fact.  Life is busy and looking back, I cant believe another year has passed.  But we’ve made intentional changes this year.  We’ve made time for each other.  No matter how busy life gets, we take time to watch the moon rise over Pleasant Valley and the sunset at the beach.  We go for long walks together with Murdoch along the trails behind our house and explore parts of the island we’ve not seen before.  Ultimately, this is the one true gift we can give each other – time.  Virtually every other gift will fade, tarnish, wear out or breakdown, and instead of filling our lives with stuff, we rather make memories and experiences.

And finally, in spite of my rather sporadic posts, we still get people asking how things are going here.  For whatever reason, some say we inspire them, others just enjoy the read.  Whatever the reason you find yourself reading these words, I make this promise (no it’s not a resolution):  I will do my very best to keep posting and updating our progress regularly at Our Old Island Home.  That’s all I can do: try.

Vanessa and I wish you all the best that this new year can bring.  Blessings!


Thankful hearts

We’re approaching a year since our move to PEI. In fact, one year ago this weekend we hosted our last Thanksgiving dinner with our family in Ontario. By mid-November we were heading east with a loaded down U-Haul truck and hopeful hearts. Since then, and now in the spirit of the Thanksgiving weekend, I have a new appreciation of the life we now have.


I’m thankful for the beautiful island on which we now live. I’m thankful for the home we’re making and the fertile soil on which it’s built. I’m thankful for the freedoms we have in Canada – including the freedom to express my faith in the Lord without fear of reprisal. I’m thankful for the family and friends – both near and far – who have shown their unconditional love and support of the crazy adventure we chose. And I’m thankful for all those who have discovered and have been following this little blog highlighting some of our more memorable moments and milestones.


This week I begin a new chapter in our life on the east coast as I start a new job. With winter approaching we find ourselves in need of employment and a steady income. Our little nest egg left from the sale of our Ontario home has almost been exhausted with the large expenses we’ve incurred this year: new house, new foundation, new roof, new well, new (used) car and countless trips to the building supply center for our ongoing renovations. My job now affords us to pay what little bills we have (insurance, electricity, internet) and leave an amount of disposable income for the ongoing renovations and savings we’d like.

I find the contentment in my heart and the size of my bank account to have no correlation – now more than ever. In spite of what our bank balance may be, I feel richer today than I’ve ever felt. I own my house, property and vehicles – all with zero debt. In fact, I recently told a friend that if I were to win a million dollars, I wouldn’t change a thing. I want to cut my own firewood. I want to grow my own potatoes. I want an old house to restore myself. I don’t miss any of the “luxuries” we had before our move. In fact, I’m happier living with less.


I know this lifestyle isn’t for everyone – or maybe even the majority of people. But it is for us. And we’re truly, truly thankful for everything we have.

“A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.”

Blessings to you and yours this Thanksgiving.

I know it’s been a while. A lot has happened.

It’s said: “great things are believed of those who are absent.”  If that’s indeed true, I hope I don’t let you down.

It has been a great few weeks since my last post.   A lot of things have happened to us and through us.  We’ve had a great time visiting with family and enjoying the bounty that’s come from our garden.

My last post spoke of the busy couple of weeks getting the house ready leading up to our vacation.  I won’t revisit that, but suffice to say, we enjoyed our little trip to Ontario.  Not that is was solely for our amusement – my brother Scott and his fiance Dawn were married.  That in itself was reason enough for us to drop everything and head back, but the honor was mine when I was asked to perform their wedding ceremony – to the surprise of everyone in attendance.


It was a beautiful day spent with family and friends.


While in Ontario though, we had a little scare.  I ended up in the hospital with a blood clot in my leg.  As the doctor said however, I got lucky.  The clot was in an arterial vein and I wasn’t at risk of it moving to my heart or lungs – so I was sent on my way with blood thinners to enjoy the rest of the vacation.

Once the newlyweds were married, we all convoyed back to PEI for a “familymoon”.


Scott and Dawn, Scott’s kids Carrie and Ryan, one of Dawn’s daughters, Jordan and her husband Christian, and my Mom spent the week with us to see the life we’ve been making for ourselves.


We did some of the usual touristy stuff – went to the beach (several times), ate some lobster and visited the sights and scenes.


It was hard to see the family leave after only a week here, but we had a tremendous time together.


Vanessa and I weren’t done with the vacation just yet, though.  We’ve been mackerel fishing now a couple of times.


I want to take advantage of this as much as we can while the summer is here.  There is no catch-limit or license required to catch mackerel here – so while we’re able, we’ll be stocking our freezer with these freebies.


And speaking of freebies, our garden just keeps giving and giving.  While our guests were here, we enjoyed produce picked daily from the garden – including broccoli, lettuce, beets, new potatoes and zucchini.


Since our visitors left, the tomatoes are turning, the beans are almost ready and the corn is almost there.  We haven’t bought any produce – other than some fruit – in about a month.


What we haven’t been able to eat fresh, we’ve been canning or freezing.  We’ve pickled fourteen pounds of beets and have a second crop planted for an early fall harvest.

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We’ve also processed fifteen pints of pickles – dill and bread & butter

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and have about ten pounds of cabbage fermenting for sauerkraut.

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So while we’re not entertaining guests, or fishing, or tending to the vegetable garden we also have our chickens.

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We now added six laying hens to our family so we quickly built a brooder for the chicks and Vanessa and I are currently building on a small coop from some of the reclaimed wood from the renovations on the house.

So needless to say our month-long absence is not the result of not having anything to write about, but rather the opposite – we’ve just been too busy to keep up with everything.   Hopefully we haven’t lost anyone along the way.

We’ll get back on track, but for now, some pictures from our garden:

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The storm passed. Everyone’s happy.

Well we survived our visit from Arthur – the first Atlantic hurricane of the season – although it was downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time it hit the island.


We lost power last night and have been without for about twelve hours now.  (Note: I’m currently writing this blog entry in my notebook to be transferred to the computer once power is restored). 

We’ve only been without power for a few hours now, but it certainly drives home the point of how reliant we are to the grid.  Since we’re so deep into the renovations, and we’re going to rewire the house anyhow, I’ll be hardwiring a few critical circuits to run off a generator if needed – the fridge, well-pump, a few lights and plugs, etc.  Nothing extravagant, just enough “juice” to get us through a lengthy blackout if needed.  With a well, no power means no water.

Not that we had any issue with this storm – there was lots of advance notice of the impending hurricane.  We had filled a couple of water containers we use for camping with water – and the bathtub as well.

So other than the power outage, we came out of things unscathed.  The roof was finished on Friday – one day before the storm hit….


….and thankfully we didn’t lose a single shingle.

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Not to say the house didn’t rock in the strongest wind gusts – because it certainly did – but there were no significant issues.  I’ll admit it was pretty unnerving how the house shook in the strongest gusts – probably made all the worse because the house is completely gutted on the second floor.  One gust tore off the Tyvek building wrap from the exposed area on the back of the house and it’s now M.I.A.  The way the wind was howling, I suspect someone in Prince County is picking it up from their yard today.

Before the storm came, I closed in the floor of the addition to prevent and wind from gusting through the basement.  We didn’t need the basement filling up with water before the concrete floor gets poured, either.

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So suffice to say we’ve now got our work cut out for us.  Everything we’ve been doing to date has led up to this moment.  The demolition was in anticipation of the new foundation.  The new foundation allowed us to get the roof re-sheathed and shingled, which now allows us to finally get the upstairs renovations underway.

In fact, we had a big lumber order delivery on Friday to start restructuring the attic floor, install the roof vents for the cathedral portion of the ceilings and rebuild the partition walls.  This week, we’ll be getting our clawfoot tub, shower unit and associated hardware.

But it’s not all work, no play either.  We had a surprise visit from a good friend and former co-worker, Skip and his beautiful daughter Brooke.

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Skip and Brooke. Not an accurate representation.

They had an east-coast road trip planned and paid us a totally unexpected visit.  Skip was our lead-carpenter back in my Ontario life so I was tempted to shove a hammer into his hand when he walked in our front door.

Our work days have been lengthening as of late to get as much done as possible before our family arrives in August for vacation.  I’ve been preparing them that they shouldn’t expect the Royal York Hotel here, rather more like the Hav-a-Nap motel.  Either way, it’s going to be great to see family again and show them what we’ve gotten ourselves into.

In anticipation of their visit, we’ve been exploring the island ourselves for ideas to bring them.  Murdoch on the other hand is quite happy to just go to the beach.

Insanely happy

Insanely happy

Oh yeah, and to wrap things up, my birthday came and went.  We just did a small celebration this year….

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Oh, wait.  That was Canada Day in Charlottetown.   For my birthday, we just sat in the dark.

Thanks, Arthur.