It’s official – spring is here! Time to start the garden plans

Well, Vanessa and I have been enjoying a few days off from working on the house.  After a bit of a snow/ice storm last week, the past few days have been beautiful.  It’s been sunny and clear – albeit a little cold – so we’ve been enjoying some time outside.

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We’re just back from a long two-hour walk with Murdoch on the Confederation Trail

Murdoch discovers the sunroof

Murdoch discovers the sunroof

and with a quick coffee-to-go, a drive up to Cavendish and along the shoreline.

....to see the sights

….to see the sights

....and a little wildlife.

….and a little wildlife.

And with the official first day of spring on us, we’ve been thinking planning dreaming of the planting season and the gardens.

We went to town over the weekend and got all of our vegetable seeds from Veseys for the spring.  One of my earlier posts (https://ouroldislandhome.com/2014/01/18/spring-dreaming/) outlined all of the vegetables we would be trying – and that hasn’t changed much.   I know it all sounds very ambitious – and it probably is – but we have nothing to lose.  It’s not like we’re pressed for space and don’t have the time to tend the garden.  We’ve settled on the back south-east corner for the garden – it’s a clear and wide-open area that receives sun all day.  The space around the house is being reserved for flower beds, patios, BBQ and entertainment area – and around the barn is the driveway, shop and (eventually) greenhouse area.

So with the location of the veggie beds determined, we now need the snow to go (who doesn’t, amiright?) and we’ll prep the area.  We have two huge rolls of black poly (plastic) to roll out over the bed areas.  We’re planning on eight beds – each measuring 10′ x 25′.  The black poly serves two purposes: first, it will inhibit any grass and weeds from starting to grow as the weather warms, and secondly, it warms the soil in anticipation of planting.  A number of our plants need warmer conditions: sweet potato, corn, tomatoes and peppers don’t like their feet cold.  Other crops are less fussy and can be planted as soon as the soil is workable.

We’ve planned an eight crop rotation.  Different vegetables can be grouped together in similar families.  Utilizing crop rotation, you change the location of each vegetable group from year to year.  This reduces the likelihood of a pest or disease problem overwintering and attacking the same crop in the same location of the following year.  For example tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes all belong to the same family and, as such, are susceptible to the same pests and diseases.  Because these plants all belong to the solanaceous or nightshade family, you wouldn’t plant tomatoes in the same plot that potatoes were planted in the previous year.  The goal is to have at least three to four years before the same crop-family is planted in the same location again.

So, here’s our rotation plan – the eight beds will be:

  1. Legumes: beans and peas
  2. Brassacas: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip
  3. Nightshades: tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, tomatillos
  4. Umbeliferae: carrot, parsnip, parsley, celery
  5. Lettuce and sweet potato
  6. Cucurbits: cucumbers, squash, pumpkin
  7. Goosefoot: beet, chard, spinach and Alliums: onion, garlic, leeks, chive
  8. Corn

And in addition to these eight beds, we’ll have permanent locations for the perennial plants: asparagus, rhubarb and berries.

Yup – that’s a lot of produce.  But think about this: one seed packet of broccoli costs $3.00.  A packet of 1000 carrot seeds cost about $4.00 and for $8.00 we bought 1000 corn seeds.  The list goes on and on.  For what we would spend on groceries in one week, we bought the potential for the same grown by ourselves – one hundred times over!

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We realize that’s far more than we’ll ever need – even canning, freezing and preserving as much as we’re able.  So we’ve already decided the surplus would be donated to needy families or a food bank.  Either way, our needs will be met and others will be blessed with the surplus.

Over the next short while, we’ll be starting some of the plants inside in anticipation of the last frost – transplanting around the end of May.  I’ll show you how we’re geminating and growing the plants before transplanting – and how we prepare the beds.

I’d love to hear what you grow in your home gardens – and any helpful tips you might have.  Until then, enjoy your spring!

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Why PEI? Why now?

“The most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”

Two questions have been coming up over and over again:  Why PEI? and Why now?

Murdoch and his Mom - in Cavendish

Murdoch and his Mom – in Cavendish

Let me start this post by saying that writing a blog isn’t easy.  Not for me anyhow.  The words just don’t come easy with me – and when I do write something, I read it over, and over, and over, rewrite my thoughts and reread it, and edit it further, erase it, rewrite it, obsess over it – blargetty, blarg, blarg.   And then, I delete half of what I wrote before I hit the “Publish” button.  It’s all very tiring.  And this is probably the more difficult type of post for me: more personal, less technical.

I find it relatively easy to write about the business of what we’re doing in PEI:  plaster and lath!  framing!  cut-nails!  demolition!  repair!  renovate!  Construction is the language I speak.   But ask me why we’re doing it, and it’s much more difficult to convey.

About two years ago, Vanessa and I started talking about moving away from the city into a more rural setting, simplifying our life, slowing our pace and, in doing so, making the time for the things we see important and enjoying our time together.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  There was nothing wrong with the life we had living in Whitby, Ontario.  In fact, we had it pretty good: decent jobs, a beautiful home on a big lot with flower and vegetable gardens and fruit trees.  We were comfortable and what we had was nice.

But it wasn’t our dream.

Ever since we met, we talked about our love for old homes and country life.  I remember our first dates were spent walking the streets in downtown Unionville – going in and out of the old shops and admiring the homes.  We thought: someday we’d love to have an old house.

Unionville, ON

Unionville, ON

Then life happens – I was finishing school and we were working towards getting married.  There were family stresses, too – my dad was sick during our engagement and passed away just a few months after we were married.  We carried on the way newly married people are expected to – we landed jobs, tried (unsuccessfully) to have kids and eventually bought our first home.  Life rolled on, as it does, and before we knew it, fifteen years had passed.

We had built a lifestyle that, while comfortable, wasn’t fulfilling.  With Vanessa working for a charitable organization, the hours available for her to work were directly reflective of the donations received.  I found myself taking on more responsibility and working more hours than I wanted but not seeing a return in my income.  We were working more but earning less, but our cost of living wasn’t declining, either.  Our jobs had become a sort of paradox – a necessary evil – we were working harder and harder to maintain a lifestyle that wasn’t what we really wanted.

So what options did we discuss?

  1. We could continue with the status quo – work hard, pay down our mortgage and, in time, save enough to buy that old farmhouse with acreage in Southern Ontario.  PROS: it’s status quo, friends and family are close and it’s familiar, comfortable.  CONS: it’s status quo, work is becoming a source of dissatisfaction, tired of the city and the rat-race, it’s a long term plan – fifteen years easy, or increase debt load/mortgage.
  2. We could sell our house now while the market is hot and move to a location where the old farmhouse dream can be realized.  PROS: mortgage-free at 40, able to spend quality time in the outdoors, start being more self-sufficient in our food requirements, no rat-race, improved quality of life, fulfilling a twenty-year dream, enjoying it now while we’re young – who knows how long we have here.  CONS: moving away from family and friends, unknown job-market.

Well, if you’re a reader of this blog, you already know our decision.  We would sell now and start a new life elsewhere.  The question was “where”?

Two minutes from our house - hundreds of kilometers of hiking, trails, bike paths and rivers

Two minutes from our house – hundreds of kilometers of hiking, trails, bike paths and rivers

We looked at Northern Ontario.  We went so far as to order catalogues of remote acreage parcels on which to build a homestead.  And there were some beautiful properties in the northern wilderness: 200+ acres with lakes and rivers surrounded by crown land – a hunter/fisherman’s paradise.   The land was affordable – but not entirely workable.  Farming is part of the dream and we want to grow as much produce as possible to meet our needs for the year.  That’s hard to do on bedrock and in the cold north climate.

Another option was replanting my roots in Newfoundland.  That’s my ultimate dream.  It certainly meets my need of having access to the great outdoors.  Farming would be difficult, though and housing prices there were still relatively higher than we wanted to go.  The beauty would be having distant family closer again.

Our new neighbors

Our new neighbors

How we started considering Prince Edward Island is still not entirely clear.  I remember looking at the housing market and asking Vanessa what she thought.  She’d never been to PEI – but loved Anne of Green Gables, so….sure!   We could have our pick of old farmhouses and farming is a tried-and-true industry here, so we shouldn’t have much issue.  The more we talked and prayed about it, the more it seemed that we were being led here.  Everything seemed to fit the bill, so in September we came to look for an old island home and by mid-November the moving truck was packed and we were eastbound.

U-Haul, U-pack, U-unpack

U-Haul, U-pack, U-unpack

The rest, as they say, is history.  Or at least history being written.

If you’re reading this now and wondering how the house renovations are coming along, you’ll be happy to hear that we reached a milestone this week:  we now have the main cape of the house completely gutted.  I’ve already started to write that post and you’ll be seeing it in the next few days – so don’t worry, we’ll get technical again real soon.

For now, I’m glad to get this post over with.  It’s taken a lot longer to write this one than the others – and I’m tired and I want to go to bed.  I hope you enjoyed reading it, none the less.