When we lived in suburbia I ran our
business, Aztext Electronic Publishing, out of our basement. I had
started in an office, wore a tie to work, joined the Chamber of Commerce
and did all the usual business stuff. But once the business got going
and I was working crazy long hours, the office seemed irrelevant so I
moved into the basement. It was great to be able to work from home and
spend time with my daughters. We set up a craft table for them in the
office, and they quickly learned to tone down the noise level whenever
the phone rang and I needed to speak to a client.
The downside to
locating my office in the basement was that the window looked out on to
the driveway and most of the time I looked up at the underside of our
car. Oh it was a beautiful undercarriage, but uninspiring. Okay I lied.
Most of the time our car was rusting out as we put every penny into
paying off our mortgage so we could escape to the woods.
escape we did. And now it’s very rare that anyone who gets the tour of
this place doesn’t comment on the amazing view from my office. And I
must concur. It is a dream come true. I look out at trees that cover
some of our 150 acres and it’s just an amazing place to work and write.
we moved here there was a small depression near the house that had been
left by earthmovers grabbing fill for the road when it was upgraded
past our house. At that time the owners of this place lived in the city
and so they didn’t mind some topsoil being scraped off. It breaks my
heart to think of what little topsoil that was there being dumped in the
road, but I did notice this depression tended to hold water longer in
the spring. So I had backhoe in to dig it even deeper and now we have a
pond to look at. In the spring it’s a small lake and we often have
mergansers nesting in the boxes that Michelle’s dad built for us. We
also have several muskrats that make their home here and I cannot help
but sing The Captain and Tennille’s song “Muskrat Love.” Something must
be going in their den.
In the winter the pond becomes the skating
rink and as I’ve blogged about before, I take great joy in my skating
rink. You can’t conveniently buy a skating rink, but each winter I get
to enjoy skating on my own pond, which, as a Canadian, is deeply
engrained in my DNA.
The view out of my office window has been
upgraded over the years, a “continuous quality improvement” sort of
endeavor. Our first solar tracker (the diagonal piece of steel at the
bottom right) had two rounds of solar panel additions, and then we built
the second tracker with room for more, which we eventually managed to
I can see our old wind turbine off to the east, but our
new Bergey 1 Kilowatt turbine is perfectly framed in the window that I
look out of while sitting in my chair. Knowing the myriad of places that
we could have located it, I constantly shake my head at the idea that
somehow it ended up just perfectly fitting in that space. And after the
challenge of erecting it, it fills my heart with joy and contentment to
look at it whirling away producing clean, green power for our home and
this time of year the gardens are a huge source of contentment to look
at out the window. Right now our 700 gladiola bulbs are in full bloom,
and while we’re constantly harvesting and selling them, there is always a
fantastic display. Both sides of the glad garden are framed with a row
of huge sunflowers Michelle planted. We call this place “Sunflower
Farm”, with a play on the “sun power” aspect of living off grid, but we
both really love sunflowers. I can stand and stare at them for hours
watching the bees come and go and realizing what a fantastic vertical
ecosystem a sunflower is. Some of our sunflowers grow to be 10 feet high
and the stalks are almost big enough to harvest and burn in the
woodstove. All from a tiny seed and photosynthetic energy of the sun.
Such a miracle.
Of equally great joy right now is the berry garden
at the back of the property. For years I struggled with berries and
wasn’t successful. I simply had too much on my plate with upgrading
every system in the house and expanding the regular vegetable gardens.
But several years ago I decided to take on berries again and do it
right. I’ve been aggressive about weeding and watering and it’s been a
huge investment in time, and money to buy the plants, but it’s finally
paying off. The strawberry and raspberry harvests were fantastic this
year. We ate them like crazy, froze a winter’s worth in the freezer and
even got to sell some raspberries at our market in town. It was a dream
come true. After years of picking berries at other U-pick farms, I
finally had enough not only for myself but to sell. Some people take
satisfaction in receiving their monthly retirement investment
statements. I take far greater satisfaction in a freezer full of berries
and the 8 pints of organic raspberries I sold this year, which will
greatly increase next year.
In this photo you can also see lots of
my latest haul of rotten hay round bales that I’ll use to expand the
gardens. To me those are better than money in the bank!
can also see the latest additions to our family, Henrietta, Penelope
(Henny & Penny) and Flora and Belle, scratching away in the dirt in
their pen. They are of course chickens and this is what they do, and
they seem to take great joy in it. They’re making quite a mess of the
place so our yard will never end up in a magazine, but the area they are
working will grow food next year and I think they’re doing a dandy job
on it. Michelle and I are getting huge enjoyment out of the ladies’
antics and right now they are eating lots of garden leftovers like
lettuce stalks and big zucchinis. While they’ll take out and eat any
insect that comes near them, they are voracious vegetarian eaters right
of my favorite albums (yes, a vinyl LP!) is “Déja Vu” by Crosby,
Stills, Nash and Young. It has amazing songs like “Carry On,” “Teach
Your Children,” “Helpless,” “Woodstock,” and the “B” side includes the
song “Our House.” That’s the song with the lyrics “Our house, is
very, very, very fine house, with two cats in the yard, life used to be
so hard, now everything is easy ‘cuz of you.” Our cats Lizzie and
Cricket are indeed two cats that are outside much of the day. And they
do like to roam the yard and can spend the day stalking grasshoppers and
watching “chicken TV.”
Life in the suburbia was a grind, focused
on earning an income. Life here at Sunflower Farm is a huge amount of
work in terms of heating with wood, growing food for us and our
vegetable stand in town, and the various other tasks that come with
rural living. But every time I sit down at my computer to try and grind
out a little income from our other sources I’m reminded that the view
out my window makes it all completely worthwhile. Our house is indeed, a
very, very, very fine house.
Photos by Cam Mather.