Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow Princess

There is a certain thrill to sitting up high on the seat of a tractor, and cutting through the snowdrifts like a knife through butter.

I am sure that to my neighbours I look completely ridiculous, in my one piece insulated coverall, my balaclava, and my snow goggles. However this get-up has proven to be not only warm, but protecive in even the worst snow conditions.

I can complete our long snow covered laneway in two swipes, taking a little extra care to clear the end of the lane where the towns plow has helpfully piled snow in extra deep drifts.

Occasionally I get stuck, or I end up leaving the gravel driveway and hay starts spewing up from the chute, but with a quick flick of the wrist I make it right again and cruise along in my world of white.

Many times I have stopped to wonder at the beauty around me, the snow clinging to the pines and cedars like white icing. I marvel at how the birds still keep warm when it's minus 22 with the wind chill.

The old couple who used to own our farm shovelled the 2000 foot driveway by hand, and as the years went on, with a push blower. Wow. I have great respect for them.

Musings over, I put it into high gear and head down to the barns....there is snow to be blown.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Here piggy piggy

I have started to think about pigs. Older farmers tell me that pigs are a good crop - not impacted by the weather and always easy to sell.

A single sow can have three litters a year in some cases, each litter giving you 8-10 piglets to sell. Depending on the breed, and whether they are registered or not - this could be a tidy side income.

I will confess that I adore bacon, and I am adjusting to the idea that the animals on our farm are not simply pets, they are food for the table. It's hard sometimes to keep them in that perspective, and I will admit that I do have one hen that I am quite fond of, but in the end the reason we chose this rural lifestyle was to bring us closer to our food source.

Pigs, with their tiny sharp feet, have been used for years by hobby farmers to turn over a patch of earth for gardening. It does make me wonder what their pasture would be like after a wet spring. It's bad enough down by the cattle barn!

Contrary to popular belief, pigs don't eat "garbage", they require a diet much like ours - with similar protein, carb and fat ratios. Pigs are so similar to us in terms of their digestive system that they are often used for drug trials. So I have begun researching their food requirements.
If I am going to pitch this idea to my better half, I had best have my facts straight!

Wee sister will be thrilled, she likes the idea of a pig on the farm. I will just have to be careful not to tell her that the intent is to create bacon.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Sourdough is amazing stuff. I call mine Fred, and he lives in the fridge - way at the back behind the pickles.

Fred gets fed weekly, he isn't picky. A little flour and water, a dash of sugar and he's happy. But the trouble is that Fred likes to be used weekly. Why is that a trouble you ask?

Sourdough is delicious, it should be simple to keep using it up. And it is, but we are adrift in a sea of cinnamon buns and pumpkin loaf. My freezer is over flowing with sourdough creations. I have begun giving it away, and my 80something year old neighbours reminded me that they can't eat sugar...so now who do I give it to?

My colleagues are requesting that I stop with the cinnamon buns, their waistlines can't keep up. But neither can mine.

Fred will die if I don't use him.

Sometimes, I get lucky and can find some poor sod, aka a friend, to pawn sourdough off on. "Here! Take a few cups! It's awesome stuff." - and later they curse me for including them in this sick cycle of baking.

I could make bread, but my low carb diet doesn't need any encouraging in the wrong direction.

It's Friday, time to make something with Fred. Sigh...is it murder to let him pass on? The guilt would kill me. Time to make cinnamon buns... again!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sometimes Technology Sux

So it appears that I have been happily blogging away on my iphone, and the endless blathering didn't go anywhere. I am learning that the "Free" iphone apps are free for a reason. So bear with me dear reader, as I load up posts from some time ago.

On the plus side, I can now add some photos to the posts and make your journey with me more colourful.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It pays sometimes to be a "Hick"

It's not often I get into the "big city", but recently a conference at a downtown Marriott Hotel caused me to make the trip into the endless sea of smog.

I arrived in the cement jungle at about 6AM, early enough to beat the mad dash of commuters and the streams of pedestrians that seem to ignore every traffic signal.

Following the conference, I inched my way into mid-day traffic for the trek home. It was madness, trucks were double parked, pedestrians jay walked at every gap within the park cars, cyclists couldn't decide if they were cars or pedestrians and opted instead to leap from sidewalk to road at a moments notice.

I inched along.

I came to a one way street, and it beckoned me with it's promise of directional traffic. So I cautiously made the turn, narrowly avoiding the eldery gentleman standing in the middle of the road, the bicycle courier doing wheelie hops around pedestrians, and the gaggle of business men who were ignoring the light.

As I made the turn with success, a cop on foot madly began waving me over to the side of the road. What now?

I pulled over.

"M'am, do you know what you did wrong?"
"Well officer, I apologise, I know I got a little close to those business men but the light was red and truthfully I was trying to avoid the old man and the cyclists."

He stared at me.

"So you didn't see the no right turn sign?"

Um. No.

He took my license and registration, and peered at it.
"From the country?"

"yes sir, and heading back that way now"

He stooped down and did a visual sweep of my station wagon. Poster depicting the different cow species, a Brooks and Dunn CD, and my rubber boots amuck with cow manure.

He handed me my license and registration.

"Have a nice day m'am. Go home now"

And so I sped away back to the rural roads - where the only thing I have to worry about is the odd chance of a deer cutting me off.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cluck Cluck Cluck

I explained to my better half that I was in need of some poultry. He suggested I keep them way down in the barns and I laughed at this suggestion.

What I wanted was a coop.

He is a great builder of things, and I knew that with a little encouragement, and perhaps some homemade chocolate chip cookies and a beer, great things were possible.

And so it began!
He started with the shell, and for a few days I began to worry that it would not get done in time before the snow fell.

But fear not...I came home from work to see progress being made.

Gradually the coop was taking shape. The windows looked smashing, and I gave him top stars for the excellent ventilation and insulation. These would be spoilt chickens.

And here it is complete. There are two clean out doors, plenty of nest boxes, and nice large "man door" for me. He even hooked up electrical, albeit temporary for now.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


It's funny, back in the day when I had to do 1.5 hours of highway driving to the office, I used to hate my commute. Oh sure, over time it becomes a mindless drive, and you get used to the traffic and the transport trucks, and the cars inching along in rush hour.

My commute now is so very different. I only have to drive in "city traffic" for about 1/3 of my commute, the first two third of the drive is comprised of country roads. It's kind of meditative to drive along and admire the farms I pass. I make mental notes of ideas to steal, and spots of great beauty. Each day I pass under the same tree, and the same Red Tailed Hawk peers down at my passing car - making me feel as though he is some great feathered gate keeper.

It amazes me that I can make that part of my journey with no radio, no sound. Just me and the countryside. Once I hit the city limits, turning on the radio somehow feels right, and so I do. Allowing the rambunctious morning show hosts to spew their commentary into the car, alerting me to the noise ahead.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hay vs. Straw

Time for some truth telling. I didn't know the difference between straw and hay. I thought they were one and the same thing. When other farmers asked me at farm auctions what we grew in our fields, I said "Hay". But I thought it was all the same thing.

Recently, I learnt that there is a large difference. Hay is a mix of grasses and plants, dried for use over the winter period to feed pasture fed animals.

Straw is the stalk of a plant, left over once the grains have been harvested, and is used primarily for bedding.

Our hay is a lovely mix of Timothy grass, alfalfa, brome and cowslip. It's also got quite a good bit of clover mized in, and makes a sweet smelling dried hay once it's all baled and in the barn.

We are still trying to calculate how much hay you actually need per cow. We have square bales, but want to do round bales next year.

So - how much had does a cow eat per month? In square bales? I have heard differing opinions, and my greatest fear is that in the middle of a cold and snowy winter we are going to run out of hay.

For now, they are happily munching away at the remaining grasses. We worry about that too, as we are allowing them to pasture in our hay fields. Will it cause damage to the plants? Should we move them before winter sets in?

Still so much to learn.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

No animals...remember?

So, the cows are doing marvellously, and our learning curve has been steep. Surprisingly, cattle dont' take that much to care for. Aside from a vet bill for some Ivermec (which we later discovered we could have purchased at the TSC Store and applied ourselves) and the evening grain ration - they mostly keep to themselves and pasture amongst the rolling hills.

I joke that we got them only to improve the view.
The Highlands are very docile, and while it took me a few weeks to get used to their horns, I have become accostomed to them. I do use a "sherpherd stick" when I am in with the herd, but tend to use it more as they use their horns. To say "out of the way please" or "back off, I am not giving you any of this". They seem to respect my "horns", even though they are in the form of an old maple branch with a knotty end.
When we went to the feed store to ask for "cattle feed", everyone had a good chuckle. Which was fine, because we laughed too. They were very helpful, and we not give a mix each night of grains and corn screenings, with a little diatomaceous earth mixed in for good measure.
I can stand down by the barns and whistle, and all 8 cattle come running like dogs over the hill. Actually, they are better trained than the dogs, as when I whistle for the dogs they tend to run the opposite way.
I am still not sure if they were a good purchase, but as a starter herd for two city kids who are trying their hand at farming, they are a perfect breed. Whether we keep them or not remains to be seen.
Now...I think we need some chickens. Since the no animal rule has been broken, what's the harm?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Honey Do

I remember when we used to go looking for a farm, and we would drive past farm houses for hours. As we drove along, I would often comment "If those folks painted that house it would look so great", or "I wonder why they don't fix that fence? It would look so much better if they did".

If only I knew then what I know now!

The "TO DO" list is never done. At last count, our To Do list had 57 items on it, everything from fixing fencing, building chicken coops, and repairing the cattle barn roof to such sundry items as finally finding the time to dehead my tulips! It seems that every time I turn around, another "To Do" pops up.

And so you begin to prioritize. Certain items go on "next years" list, some items go on the "winter list" and you begin to tackle the items that need doing immediately.

The trouble is that between us, we often have differing opinions of what can wait, and what can't. I don't understand why it is that the man cave garage needs to be cleaned out immediately, but then again - since it is said man that is doing most of the work I suppose I should let him put that one top of the list.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

No animals for one year

That was the agreement. One full year of no farm animals, and then we would carefully choose what to get into.

But that was before the train ride.

In the beginning, it seemed rather romantic. We won a trip for two via train, from one large city centre to another several hours away. By car, it would be an 8 hour trip. By train? It was 11 hours. I know I am terrible at math, but I am still unable to figure that one out.

Regardless, it was a terribly long train ride, and would have been completely unbearable but not for the free rum and cokes, and the complimentary internet access.

So we sat, drinks in hand and used our iphones to surf Kijiji. 6 hours in, we began to run out of things to look for, and so our searches turned to livestock.

"how about a goat?" , "look at this cute pig" and then...

There they were. A small herd of Highland Cattle.

We had always said we wanted Highland Cattle. There was something majestic about their long horns and shaggy coats. But we knew nothing about cows or the keeping of them.

Still, and email wouldn't hurt. With a lowball offer, just to see - right?

We are now cattle farmers. Funny how that no farm animal rule went out the window. I blame the train.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The price of hay

We had a lot to learn about hay it seems. Those seemingly similar round bales are actually quite different than one another.

Round bales are measured in feet- in our area a 4 foot round is the preferred choice. While square bales do pack into a barn more readily, round bales tend to last longer as they are packed tighter.

The makeup of hay greatly increases it's value. Timothy hay with a mix of clover, alfalfa and leguemes being the prefered choice. Straw, the leftover stalk of a grain, is worth less but is useful for bedding and cheap feed.

So how much is hay worth? In our area a 4 foot round bale brings about $30 - our 48 acres gives us about 50 round bales, seems like a lot of work for $1500! However it's valuable feed for livestock.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Candy Apple Red

Yup. No renovations. I hear you honey. No renovations for the first year.

But paint doesn't count does it? The purple front door on the farm house was driving me nuts. Not that I don't like purple, it was oddly soothing in it's vibrant hippy way. But I am just not a purple fan.


I wanted a red front door. And so one day when he was at work, I dug out the painting supplies and rolled up my sleeves. Here is the result. Not bad if I do say so myself. The plant next to it is Lantana, my favorite plant. I only wish it lasted all year. This year I am going to try and pull it inside to winter it, but I am afraid it's a very "sensitive" breed and may not make it. For now, I will enjoy it in full summer bloom.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fur and Feather

I have always had an affinity for creatures. Fuzzy creatures, feathered creatures, scaley creatures. When I was a child, I adored any book that had an animal slant. I used to read Charlotte's Web, and hope that one day I too would have a pig. Is it no wonder I ended up on a farm?

Even in the city I was never without a pet of sometime. A parrot, a cat, a dog...and for a short while a neighbourhood racoon that needed overnight shelter.

Down at the barns today, I found a fallen swallow. I am guessing that his mother was watching from not far away. I gently picked him up, and placed him to the side of the path where he wouldn't get trompled on. It's always best to leave baby birds alone, but I didn't want to step on the poor wee bird as I went about my barn chores.

When I came back several hours later, he was gone. It's possible one of the barn cats got him, but I like to think that he is the same swallow who greeted me in the barn several weeks later. Grateful perhaps for the chance I gave him to survive.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Packing, Packing and more Packing

How do two people accumalate so much STUFF?

We have begun packing, and the two biggest hotspots are the garage and the storage space in the basement. No surprise there I suppose. What is a surprise is what I have found in our storage space.

  • Yearbooks not belonging to my dear sweet fireman or myself. Who owns these yearbooks and how did they get here?
  • Cat accessories. We have never owned a cat.
  • A box of door hinges. Neither of us know where these came from, and all of our doors still have hinges. (we checked.)
  • Christmas decorations that neither of us will fess up to owning. I mean seriously... a glow in the dark baby Jesus??

It will be one hell of a garage sale!

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's finally happening!

If you looked closely outside of your window today, you would have noticed little rays of sunshine floating by. Those were my happy thoughts, sent out into the wild blue yonder.

I can't believe that it is actually happening, that after two years of tromping through old dusty barns, and houses with peeling wallpaper, we will finally own a farm. A real farm, with barns and outbuildings, and a creek. A farm with meadows and forest, and a long winding driveway.

This is the lightswitch in the kitchen of our new home. It's kind of cute and country. We have decided to keep it, and put it somewhere in the new house we will build. A reminder of our roots on this new farm.

We move at the end of May, and between now and then there is so much to do! But I know between the two of us it will all get done.

Wheee!!! We bought ourselves a farm!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Show me the money!

So, one lender has come through for us with flying colours. Fantastic service, great communication throughout the entire process, with a smile. "We want your business".

The other lender has made me jump through hoops. Find out information myself via their website. Contact them to find out updates. In short? Terrible service!

The trouble? I used to work for the bank that is giving me the terrible service. I was a loyal customer for years.

I simply can't believe how badly they are botching this up?

So do I leave that bank, and start fresh? Or give them another chance?

Financing Fiasco?

Things I have learnt about buying a farm property in Ontario:

  • DO NOT allow your bank to put in the application as a residential mortgage. It will be declined. You must do it through the Small Business Banking section of the bank, and structure it as an Agricultural Mortgage. It's a real headache when you have to do this twice.
  • Leave time in your offer for an environmental assesment to be done - including time for water testing to come back from the lab.
  • Leave time for an appraisal to be done. Typically two to three weeks, and NEVER do it over the March Break. Trust me on that one.
  • When the bank tells you it will all be fine, don't believe them. Ask for it in writing.

We are still waiting to hear about financing on the farm. It amazes me that this is taking so long, I am so used to typical residential mortgage deals where the offer bounces back and forth - you sign off - and it's done. I had no idea that so many appraisals and assesments would be required for a farm. Thankfully, we allowed two weeks for the financing clause, but it has now taken us almost 3. We will see where we end up with it.

The seller is horrified that this is taking so long, and terribly concerned that we believe she is trying to sell us a farm for more than it's worth. This poor woman! She is in her late 80s, and this was her family home, I can't even begin to imagine how stressed she is feeling right now. In the words of her agent, he is amazed we are being so patient to see this through to the end.

Funny, he has no idea how patient we can be. Two years of looking for a farm we aren't likely to let this one disappear at this stage in the game!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

SOLD! with one new condition?

Well, it seems that these days dogs are definitely NOT a selling feature. The buyers got wind of the fact that we "may" have a dog.

I wasn't about to correct the agent in telling them that we have FOUR dogs. But I digress.

The buyer found a "toy" in the backyard, and was horrified. Regardless of the fact that the house is spotless, she is now concerned about dog damage in the form of hair and germs throughout the house.

So her new condition is that the home must be professionally cleaned before closing. Ironic really, as we planned to do that anyway. So we had no issue in signing the amendment. But it did make me realize how many factors are at work in the sale of a home.

Doggies are home now until we move, and while I live in fear of the home buyer driving by the house and seeing the pack of dogs heading out for a walk, it's done. She can't back out now!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sold for the second time

So once again, our suburban home is sold. Conditional to a home inspection that will take place at 4:30PM EST.

It's funny, I am worried for absolutely no apparent reason. We have already had the home inspected on our own by a qualified home inspector. He found nothing with the exception of one bathroom requiring a GFI plug. (Don't even get me started on why the buyers would not accept that home inspection and still want to do their own.)

And yet, my brain can't stop pondering over the "what if's?" I am completely certain that today's home inspector won't turn up nuclear waste in our basement, or serious fissures in the roof trusses. But still...I worry.

Worry is a bit like a rocking chair, you worry and worry, and get absolutely no where.

I have given up worrying about the appraisal on the farm, as I have no control over it whatsoever. Hmmm... and I have no control over the home inspection today either.

Time to kick back and have a cup of earl grey. Nothing to do but wait.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Up! Down.Up! Down.

I have realized that I could never be an agent. The stress is killing me, and I am only a participant in this mad scenario.

Our offer on the farm is conditional to financing. In order to receive financing, we need an appraisal of the property. The company that does the appraisal apparently has ONE person who is required to sign off on the final documents. That one person has gone on vacation.

Given the nature of the industry, I am completely surprised that they manage to stay in business. However, as I have said before our agent (my MIL) is phenomenal. She extended the condition of financing, crisis averted. But it means that our farm ownership remains just slightly out of reach.

Our suburban home sold earlier this week, we had two offers and we chose the highest offer. It was conditional to financing and the buyers had three days to arrange this. We were elated! I was walking on cloud nine, relieved that our home had sold. One more worry lifted from my shoulders!

Last night we had a call at 11PM, to advise us that the buyers could not arrange financing. It seems that they are self-employed and haven't been claiming their income. We were crushed.

So now we are back on the market. How utterly frustrating.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Clean House Hell

I swear my house has never been so completely spotless and devoid of personality. It has been staged, and primped. Cleaned and polished. It somewhat resembles a high end hotel, with it's generic art and neutral colours.

I am afraid to touch anything. Using a tap means water spots on the chrome. Walking around too much may make lint on the floors. And god forbid you eat anything in the house and get crumbs on the counter.

So mostly I sit in front of the computer, it's a safe zone. Provided I don't forget to turn it off. Apparently computer screens in the on position are offensive to buyers.

Dear lord I hope this house sells soon. I am not enjoying being in purgatory.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Please send me a buyer universe

The wait is killing me. We have had showing after showing, repeat showings, positive feedback, fantastic open houses...and still no sale. All I need is one buyer to be interested enough in our wee suburban house to make an offer.

In the meantime, we stress over what to do. Bring the dogs home? Struggle with the mess for each and every showing? Leave the dogs at the kennel for one more weekend?

We simply want life to return to normal, or as near as normal can be.

Sell wee house - sell.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Showing the House

I don't think there is a single part of my body that doesn't ache in some way. The day started out so well, with a plan in place, and somewhere around noon it all went to hell in a hand basket!

I was on my way back from the paint store, laden down with quarts of paint to touch up areas that needed to be repaired. We spent last night patching areas that had dings and dents, and my walls looked like they had white chicken pox.

My cell rang as I stepped in the door at about noon. What's that you say?? A showing at 7pm? TODAY????

I sprang into action. Like a mad woman. I prayed that they wouldn't notice the clothes I shoved into the dryer, and that they wouldn't peek under beds and see all of the things I stashed in my mad dash to get the house in order. I scrubbed walls, I painted walls. I cleaned, I packed, I prepped. I ran up and down the stairs so many times my calves began to scream for mercy.

And as 6:35 rolled around, I breathed a sigh of relief. If they didn't look too closely, and if I lit candles instead of turning on the lights, this could actually be a good showing.

They showed up early, and stayed for 11 minutes. ELEVEN minutes. My body did not feel that this was a fair trade off. Their eleven minutes for my 6 hours of sheer torture.

And now I am sitting in an super tidy house, with not a thing to do. Time for bed, if I can remember where I stashed my toothbrush.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Who would have thunk it?

Well, it's not 100 acres, and there is no Victorian Farm house...but it looks like we finally have our little piece of country!

The woman who was selling the property decided that she didn't want to quibble with us over price, on one condition. That we visit her in her seniors home so that she could meet the young couple who was buying her farm.

Our closing date is May 28th, and between now and then we will have our work cut out for us. We still have a house in the suburbs that needs to be sold, and packed up.

But it's real. It's happening. It really is happening. Our move to the farm!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's the waiting that kills me!

They have 24 hours to sign it back.

Why is it that 24 hours seems to stretch on endlessly??? It's really not a lot of time. We made our counter offer, and sent it back hours ago. Surely they know whether or not they can accept our counter offer.

My mind is racing and creating a million different scenerios.

Is it ours yet? Is it ours??? How about now. Is it ours now?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

How do you know it's the one?

It was a picture postcard scene. The freshly white snow, softly falling on the trees like white icing. The long winding driveway, leading up to the farm house nestled in the pines. The snow was artfully piling up on their branches, making them look like something out of a scene from Snow White.

We turned into the driveway, and the Ford F350 began to creep up the curving snow covered lane.

About one third of the way up, the back end began to slide, and with a soft whoomp, we ended up in the field. Not to worry! I thought, we have 4x4. But try as we might, she was stuck.

What a start to finding a farm today! We all laughed as we climbed down from the truck into the snow and began the trek up to the farm house. Since our agent is family, she joked that not every client got this kind of service.

As we tromped down the laneway, the house came into view. Smaller than we had envisioned from the MLS photos, but neat and clean with it's square lines and white siding. We made our way to the porch. Once inside, it had a cozy cottage like interior. Certainly not the grand Victorian we had dreamed of, but simple and clean. We could certainly work with it, despite the rose coloured carpet and the hospital green walls.

Bundling up against the elements once more, we set out to explore the outbuildings. They certainly more than met our needs. The scenery was breathtaking, and as we made our way back down the driveway toward the truck, we marvelled at the rolling hills and forests.

Now, the question at hand was how to unstuck the truck.

We had the foresight to borrow a shovel from the porch of the farmhouse, and my dear sweet fireman began to dig. And dig. And dig some more. But each time he dug a clearing, the truck would simply slide further into the ditch. The weight of the truck was too much for the incline of the hill combined with the snow.

I heard a slight puttering noise, and looked up to see the neighbour approaching on a small old tractor.

"What are you people doing? This is private property! Are you breaking in the place?" he yelled at us. He must have been about 90, and it was clear he was "watching the house". My dear sweet fireman explained that were looking at the house with our agent.

"Well what kind of idiot agent would drive down this driveway in the snow? What are you city folks?" He chided. Our "agent" smiled and said "I'm the agent". (Later she told me that she wanted to add, and no, we are from the suburbs,... that's worse!)

"You stupid fools," the old man ranted on, "only and idiot would take on this driveway. Do you have a rope even?"

He couldn't be serious. His wee tractor pulling out a Ford F350? But serious he was, and so we roped the two together. Without a word he tried to pull, popping a wheelie several times before he gave up. "Nope. You are on your own", he untied the rope and turned the tractor to leave without another word.

"See you in the spring!" we yelled after him.

So much for making an impression on our potential new neighbour.

We continued to dig, and eventually the truck laboured out of the snow, with a cheer we watched it crawl back along the driveway to the road.

As I climbed back into the truck, I looked at my dear sweet fireman and said "I think this one may be it!"

Friday, February 26, 2010

A wee little nook

Coming down with a bout of the flu this week allowed me the luxury of time. I was able to puruse MLS ads, and look at sites dedicated to private sales. It often feels a bit like a giant Easter egg hunt, opening each webpage and wondering if you have finally found the golden egg.

Earlier in the week I found 50 acres in an area known for it's rolling hills and panoramic views. A sliver of hope began to glimmer in my mind. The house looked...old, fragile, and hardly the country estate we had envisioned. However, we began to brainstorm, and envision it with a lovely fieldstone base, and a timberframe addition. Suddenly, this old cottage began to take on a new look.

We will take the time to go and see it in person tomorrow. I spent most of the week doing the background research. It came up clean in terms of survey and planning, and I was delighted to know that there are no quarries or unusual right of ways! The city tells me that there was a change of ownership from husband to wife two years ago, which leads me to believe that this may be an older woman selling a country property.

I like to think that she would enjoy the idea of us bringing new life into the place.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Back to the drawing board

I don't know what is worse. To find a farm finally, that you really love. Or to see that farm go to another buyer who can afford to outbid you.

The words "back to the drawing board" are becoming a regular part of my vocabulary. It is increasingly frustrating that the properties we like tend to go for slightly more than we can afford.

Do we adjust our expectations? Do we lower our wish list? Or do we keep waiting for the next farm to come along?

I revisited farms we have viewed online before, hoping to find an overlooked gem. Something that we missed somehow, something that had potential and was overlooked.

After 430 listings, there is still nothing.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Power of Sale

Well, in the last 48 hours we have had a crash course on Power of Sale properties.

The Bank has 3 options when an owner stops making mortgage payments.

1) attempt to obtain title of the property by accepting a Quit Claim Deed from the owner. (not common in Ontario)
2)initiate a foreclosure action through the courts in order to gain title back to the property.(Popular in the USA)
3) sell the property under Power of Sale. (Most common in Ontario because not only will the bank attempt to get all their money back through the sale but the bank also retains the right to sue the owner for payment of the outstanding debt. If the bank sells the house for MORE than is owed, the homeowner pockets the difference.)

What's important to note, is that the homeowner retains the rights of the property right up until the closure of the sale. And right up to the last minute they can bring their arrears up to date or get re-financing and therefore retain their home.

Also, the homeowner can refuse to vacate. Which means that you as the buyer will have to get a sheriff's warrant after the sale closes. Please note, they will not force the homeowners out in the winter months, so be forewarned you might not be able to move in right away!

So as a buyer, you don't really have typical buying rights. You are best to wait until the home is vacant, and then purchase a POA.

Of course, their is the karma aspect too. It somehow seems awful buying someones farm that they lost.

So we found a POA, and we REALLY like it. But the homeowners show no signs of leaving. So now what?

Friday, February 12, 2010

The great white porcelain loo

The Septic System.

Never did I imagine, in my wildest dreams that such a benign phrase could strike fear into my heart so easily. I have become an expert at septic systems. (If you are unaware of the joys of septic tanks, click here)

I have learnt about weeping tiles, holding tanks, and alternatives such as incinerating toilets and composting toilets. I have also learnt, with horror, the cost to replace a septic system.

It's very difficult when viewing a rural home to determine if the septic system is in need of replacement or not. Most home owners claim not to know the age of the septic system, and many feign ignorance when asked if they maintain it.

How am I to know if they flush things down the white porcelin bowl which should not be put into the septic system? Even something as small as a hairclip can wreck havoc.

So when we view a farm, we flush, and watch the swirling water leave the bowl, and we try to determine if things are copesetic.

These are the things that keep me up at night.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why he makes me smile

Last night, as we lay snuggled under our duvet trying to sleep, my dear sweet fireman was fumbling about in the dark.

I heard a click, and imagine my surprise as a small wee campfire appeared in the dark, complete with crackling wood and animation!

My dear sweet fireman whispered "imagine we are sitting outside at our farm, curled up together around the campfire." For a few moments, we sat watching the tiny iphone screen.

"Wow, it's getting hot!" he said with a smile, as he stretched his arm so that the small fire moved farther away. "OK, time to warm up again", and with a giggle his arm moved the tiny fire closer to us.

And so we lay, in the dark. Watching a wee tiny fire. Cozy. Together.

Early morning day dreaming...

We do some of our best "farm dreaming" in the early hours of the morning between 3 and 5AM. One of our overgrown puppies still can't quite make it through and entire night, and so right on schedule at 3AM he begins to whine.

Fortunately for me, my dear sweet fireman is accustomed to leaping out of bed and getting dressed in only a few seconds. So typically he is the one who takes our furry child downstairs and waits patiently while he sniffs around the snow covered trees in our small suburban yard.

I usually lie half awake in bed tucked under the duvet, waiting for his return and allowing my mind to wander. This week, I have been anticipating the farm property we will view on Saturday. It's a Power of Sale, which is good in some ways and bad in others. There may be some flexibility on price, however the downside is that we would have to go in with a firm offer.

As my dear sweet fireman crawls back into bed, I typically snuggle into his side, trying to warm up his cold feet. We whisper into the night our thoughts; how the barn would look with a new coat of paint; whether or not we could keep alpacas, or Highland cattle, or sheep; on whose job it will be to collect the honey from our bees.

He talks of foundation walls, and additions, framing and roof trusses. He whispers with enthusiasm about geothermal flooring and outdoor wood furnaces.

I smile in the dark, and know that if we continue to dream, it will eventually come.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Mysterious City Planner

As I have previously pointed out, the city planning office is a crucial step in the search for a rural property. It is through the planning office that you learn about pending quarries, rights of way on the land, and overall zoning.

Over the last two years, I have had the pleasure of meeting many city planners. Typically, they are tucked away in a basement or a back corner of the city hall building. Buried under mounds of maps.

Some welcome you with a smile, and are delighted that they have a visitor. When my enthusiasm for maps creeps out, they become inspired to dig up outdated maps or historical maps to share with me.

Some do not welcome the intrusion. I find in the larger city offices they see my smiling face as an unwelcome interruption to their planning activities. In those cases, I find that an evident respect and interest in what they do goes a long way in rolling out the welcome mat.

Today I had the pleasure of dealing with a city planning assistant, who clearly loves what she does and takes pride in her town. Her reply to my email was welcoming and informative. So different from some of the colder email replies I have received from larger city centres.

It is for that reason that we look forward to moving to a rural area. The warm smile that shows within the body of an email and the offer to lend a hand to a complete stranger.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Back to the drawing board

So we went for a second look, and made the decision to put in an offer. We believed that it was a very sound offer. 90% of asking price, and very few conditions.

The wait is the part that kills you. The minutes tick buy while you envision every kind of scenerio.

"Maybe they are considering it", "They are likely coming up with a counter offer"

Time moved on, minutes passed. Our midnight deadline was approaching. And then we got the call.

They wouldn't even sign it back, it was their asking price or nothing.

It wouldn't be so frustrating if their own agent agreed with them on price. However, even their agent agreed that they were overpriced. Which was why we felt our offer stood a chance.

I know that in another 60 days, when the property has been sitting on the market for 160 days, the homeowner will begin to wonder if turning down our offer was a good idea.

And we will still be here, however our offer may not be as good.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The second look

So much is riding on the second look.
The fact that the property is worth one still amazes me.

The homeowner is being difficult, and won't allow us back until Saturday. Three days away. How can they be so busy that showing the property they have for sale is such an inconvenience? Odd.

Still, the second look often reveals all of the issues you missed the first time. So back for a second look we go.

Until then, I will bake to keep my mind and hands busy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

If we dream it...

So we MAY have a potential farm.

Our challenge is that
a) it needs A LOT of work
b) the homeowners seem to feel that it is Shangri-La and have priced it as such
c) the homeowner is a stubborn old lady who will be difficult to move in price

However, we have decided that we are still a wee bit interested, despite the challenges. The farm consists of a beautiful old bank barn, that has become a bit rundown but can be restored. A workshop, a garage with a granny flat that was built in the 1940s and has never been updated, and a "house". I use the term house lightly, it really should have been torn down years ago. It would need to be taken right back to the foundation and rebuilt.

So much work. So much HARD work. And yet... we are still thinking about it. The land was so pretty, and the location is perfect.

Sometimes, when you arrive at a place, it gets under your skin and you can't stop thinking about it. This is one of those places for us. Therefore, we have decided to "sleep on it" for a few nights, and then decide whether or not to make an offer.

If we offer, the old woman will likely be very offended. We would be offering much less than her asking price. We would be offering her land value, plus the cost of the outbuildings. But miracles happen, and if we don't try, would we always wonder if it could have been ours?

If we dream it, and truly believe that it can take flight; if we wish it to be and believe with all of our might; miracles can happen!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wanted: Victorian Farmhouse on 50+ acres

So we have resorted to running ads in local papers, and online. Surprisingly, we have had two responses so far! Sadly, neither farm was within one hour of our day jobs, so we had to pass.

I am hoping that somewhere out there, as someone drinks their morning coffee, they see our ad and say "hmmm...we have thought about selling the farm. Let me give these kids a call".

I am a firm believer in the power of positive thought, and so I have been visualizing our farm. Last night as we lay in bed, we each spoke in turn about what it looked like.

"The barn is magnificent, it has huge beams reaching upwards towards the hay loft. And the old barn boards let a wee bit of sunlight in. You can smell the fresh hay".

"As far as the eye can see there is nothing but rolling hills and forest"

"The woodlot is a wonderful place to walk, with a soft layer of old leaves beneath your feet. I can't wait until spring when the sap begins to run"

"Our house is ancient, and as you approach it you begin to notice the lovely Victorian details, which we have restored with great care"

If we dream it, it will come.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Time to rethink

Well, as time ticks on these puppies get larger and larger. It won't be long before they completely outgrow this suburban backyard.

They are livestock guardians who at the present have no livestock to guard!

MLS was disappointing today, nothing new. Which was so odd for a Saturday. I am looking back again at this one. http://tinyurl.com/ykh8tor We actually went to see it, and we said nope. But I am now re-thinking it. Could be desperation on my part?

The barn needs work, the outbuildings need work, and there is a hydro corridor at the very back of the property. But the house holds some promise? Maybe remove some walls, and gut the interior. Perhaps turn the main floor into one large open concept room with a new stone fireplace? It definitely needs some sort of addition, as there can't be a proper master bedroom without one. Hmmmm...

Farm Desperation. Today's catch phrase.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A few almosts...

We have been searching for this elusive rural property for some time now, and I am sure that our friends and family must think "they are too picky".

I mean, how hard can it be to find a rural farm in Ontario?

Harder than you think.

We are fortunate that our "agent" is also my dear sweet fireman's mother. She is endlessly patient, and never laughs at our ideas.

The first farm we almost bought seemed so promising. 84 acres, an old stone house, a lovely pond... it was our dream property! I was so disappointed when I took my intuitive friend out to see it, and she simply looked at it and said "No, I really don't think this one is for you". HA! I scoffed, what did she know?
In those days we were still learning about City Planners, and so when we learnt a little more about this dream farm, we discovered that over 45 acres of the property was swampland. We decided not to buy it.

The second farm we got to the point where we actually put in an offer. It was a "fixer upper" on 100 acres of the most gorgeous farm land you have ever seen. The agent told us it was an estate sale, and what we didn't know is that the family members could decide not to sell the farm...at any point in time. And they did just that, even though we had an offer on the table.

Back to the drawing board.

Farm three was perfect. A huge Victorian, on 50 acres. Beautifully renovated, and within our price range. We put in an offer, we haggled a bit over the details, but decided that we would simply give the seller what they wanted. After all, we wanted this house! We signed it back giving the seller all that they asked for...and we heard nothing. Days passed. Finally the selling agent advised our agent that the seller had changed his mind on our offer. Odd. Much later we found out that the selling agent had another client in the wings, and he sold the farm to that client and scooped 100% of the commission. Ethical? No. Illegal? No.

So, back to the drawing board. We look at houses weekly. I have become an MLS master. We look at maps and can recognize almost every sideroad and concession. We do drive-by's and try to curb our disappointment.

We have narrowed down our list of wants and wishes, and we now know exactly what we want. And we know, that somewhere out there our dream farm is waiting.

Lessons in Real Estate

Over the course of looking for a rural property, I have discovered that there is one person that you have to rely heavily on.

The City Planner.

City Planners are typically holed up in a basement office of city hall, tucked away with their maps, and not usually visited by the public. We find they respond very well to surprise donuts, or Tim Horton's coffee.

City Planners can tell you all sorts of marvellous things. If you befriend them, they will even tell you things that they shouldn't, because they begin to care and don't want you to purchase your hard earned money on something that will not be worth the investment.

Each time we seriously consider a property, we go through the same process.

1. The initial drive by to determine if the property looks remotely like the MLS listing.
2. Google Mapping, to determine what is around the property. This is VERY important and can save a lot of time. A large quarry behind a farm can decrease the value tremendously. So can railway lines, hydro corridors and auto wrecking yards.
3. Visit the City Planning office. They can tell you what the development plans are for that area, who owns the lots adjoining the farm. What rights of way exist, if their are floodplains, protected lands, or swamps.

Then and only then if a farm passes all of this criteria would we call our agent and ask her to show us the farm. It saves her an awful lot of wasted time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In the beginning...

I am a girl, a city girl. A girl who has spent the last 15 years riding downtown city transit, and smelling exhaust fumes as I drink my Starbucks latte on my trek to the office.
I am a city girl who loves the ballet, the opera, and the wonder of the theatre. I am a girl who adores the smell of hotdogs from street vendors, and the sound of buskers earning spare coins on the corner.

Quite sometime ago, I made the move to the suburbs. A land of station wagons and minivans. A world of neighbours who offer to help shovel your driveway, and grocery stores that still have bag boys.

I became a suburban girl. I took the train into the city, caught up in the morning rush of commuters. I learned to like the big box stores, with their endless choices of merchandise, and the grocery stores as big as football fields with their promises of low low prices and their sea of colourful produce.

But then, almost 3 years ago, I met a boy.

And deep in our hearts, we had a wee bit of country. It started with a shared love of country music, and cowboy boots. We took long drives in the countryside, and began to adore the tall maples which line country laneway's. Over time, that wee bit of country began to grow.

And so it began. The search for a farm. We have been looking for almost two years now, and we have certainly learnt a lot about rural properties. I am going to share our MLS adventures with you all here dear reader. So that you can laugh along with us on this adventure!