Chapter 15: Mid-Winter Update
Originally published February 25, 2022.
I think its a little past due for a mid winter update. My focus was shifted from my weekly updates for a few weeks while I was dedicating time to the legwork behind starting my bookkeeping business. I have also been neck deep in tax preparation for ourselves as things are a little more complicated this year with us moving for work and starting a farm. But stay tuned, because if that topic at all interests you, its coming to a chapter near you. Today I'll be talking about our experience of winter in Nova Scotia so far as well as what we have been up to while hibernating.
âIn like a lion, out like a....lion?
Well the snow started failing in mid December and hasn't really stopped. Its been two months of storms every Friday (including today- I've watched over 10 cm fall from 10 am to 5 pm today). The storms are mostly just snow-no wind or ice storms so far for us. We did have a terrible ice storm a couple weeks back but we were narrowly missed geographically and it hit everywhere around us. I drove down to Digby the week after the ice storm and was just blown away at how beautifully destructive the ice was on the trees. It encased the province in sparkling glass that was truly magnificent on a clear sunny day. Definite points for being off grid during that storm though as tens of thousands of Nova Scotians were without power for up to a week due to fallen powerlines.
This winter has been one for the history books as it reminiscent of a Nova Scotia winter from the early 90s. We have received more winter precipitation and freezing temperatures than reported the last 3 years. There is even a CBC news article remarking on the unusually warm climate pattern in the province over the past few years but that delightfully mild weather certainly did not favor us this year.
When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going
âMy father always said that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Its not a quote I had recently thought about but he mentioned it to me again recently when we were talking about life on the farm. I don't feel particularly tough...I feel stubborn and dedicated to the choice we made. Do you think that equates to the same thing?
Living in the camper in the winter doesn't differ greatly than living in the summer. The major difference we have noticed is trying to manage the general humidity levels inside because each and every compartment seems to want to get musty and sometimes form surface mold. We have managed it so far by emptying all the cupboards out and leaving the doors slightly ajar, wiping down everything frequently with cleaner and putting paper towels down under everything. The best solution that has truly made a difference is buying a cheap dehumidifier for the camper that we run simultaneously to the heater, reducing the internal humidity down to about 30% from 80%. Not a bad solution for just $45. I find this process the most difficult because I become very concerned about potential long term damage to the camper should the mold form inside the walls. However, I think we are staying on top of cleaning well enough that its just a minor inconvenience. Otherwise, our camper has been working very well, no unfortunate mechanical issues or leakages anywhere, and it stays toasty warm thanks to our propane heater.
Another pleasant surprise is how efficiently our gas generator and propane heater seem to be functioning. I had expected that our heating and electrical bills to skyrocket in the winter, however our costs are still only average at about $100 per month for each of them (to be confirmed when I do my end of year financial breakdown next month). When the outdoor temperature falls below -15 degrees Celsius, the electric start on our generator typically fails, meaning that we have to go outside to press a button for it to start rather than just press a button on the remote inside, but again, that's more of a minor inconvenience. Tyler and I have taken to screaming "DIBS" when we really don't want to go outside and turn it off again, but fortunately we are both suckers for one another and usually one of us is happy to get the relationship points for being the gratuitous one. â
Our laneways has essentially been impassable since that first major snowfall, as our truck could not climb the final hill leaving the property due to the accumulation of sheer ice. This meant that our truck was marooned back at the property until we had a temporary thaw and we could drive it back out again. Fortunately we have two vehicles so we were still able to live and work with just the red rocket until the truck got out. We had to figure out a temporary solution for transporting our goods to and from the highway, as the trek back to our property is about 1.5 kms. We initially purchased a $30 sled from Canadian Tire and used to haul everything from laundry to groceries to gas to propane to water. It took a bit of an adjustment to get accustomed to loading and unloading everything at the highway and onto the sled, but once we did it a few times it was pretty straightforward and did not require much more effort than just walking normally. I'm sure more than a few of our neighbors who watched us do this process at the highway got a good chuckle at our expense- we hope you enjoy the free entertainment and don't think us too insane. â
We did want to find a better long term solution however, as it was quite physically demanding and time consuming to be sustainable over the long term. So Tyler was able to source an affordable, used ATV from one of his coworkers that would do the job of getting us to and from the property. This has been a great investment so far, though it even has difficulty in the very deep snow. â
Other than these minor difficulties, winter here functions pretty well the same as the summer. We still spend a great deal of time outside, though now its more walking and hiking in and out of the property than going for canoe rides and cutting down trees. We have managed to get a few farm chores done, like thinning out some of the trees around the barn and burning the brush that has accumulated. We chopped up some firewood and got it stacked nicely for next year since we haven't been using our wood stove this year. Its been very quiet, but the days are shorter and just our regular day to day activities take more time so my reports may not sound as exciting as the fast progress we made in the summer, but that is the nature of a seasonal climate.
We have had the opportunity to get to know some of our neighbors better and I wanted to share some words of appreciation for them:
Our neighbors Nancy and Garnet take the time to check in on us and see how we are doing. They lent us a ladder for our barn build, brought our goats crabapples for a snack and let us park our vehicles on their property by the road so we don't have to try to fight with our laneway. Nancy has been a great source of advice and local information for me. We would be having a very different winter here if it wasn't for them.
Our neighbors Bert and Verena are also kindly checking in on us. These two are inspirational as they moved here in a modified bus 10 years ago and have set up an awesome home in the forest. They have many pieces of wisdom that we appreciate, as well as just making us feel less extreme in our choice since it worked out so well for them. Most of all I appreciate their offer to let me use their cottage for an office so I have a separate space to work. I was having difficulty finding an office in New Germany to rent. It is exceptionally pleasant to be able to walk to and from my work and see friendly faces every day.
Our neighbor Terry started plowing us out on the first snowfall and has done it again before we even get down to our vehicles to shovel ourselves out. We appreciate the simple act of kindness- we CAN shovel ourselves out but its a lot nicer this way. And to David for giving us a complimentary first plow after that monstrous storm- you got a new customer out of us for life.
Duskwood Farm Services
Back in late January I started the process of finding an office space because I projected to be ready to start taking clients for my bookkeeping business in March, formally known as Duskwood Farm Services. I put in the word with my neighbors and some of the local businesses that I have met so far but unfortunately I could not find an available space. Not surprisingly, rural office space in New Germany is hard to come by. Fortunately good neighbors are not! I am very grateful to be able to use their space until I have an office built this summer on the farm. I am very excited to be one step closer to the goal of working from home at the farm full time.
It is important to start a new business off on the right foot so I have been working diligently to research and plan my new business so that it fits our new lifestyle off grid. Its particularly important to me that I put our bookkeeping first and lead by example, which is why I have been completing our own year end and putting together our tax records so that I can submit our returns before I start working on anyone else's company. Its a bit hard to see the end of such a large project when you are just starting, but its coming together so well now that I am quite pleased with it.
â2 Kids Off Grid- the Radio Show Coming March 4!
The public portion of my new business venture is to take this blog on air over at 88.7 CoveFM. I had heard the local radio station when we first moved to Halifax and absolutely LOVED the community vibe I heard. There is an eclectic mix of hosts and shows. I was immediately interested in possibly putting my own project together about farming, homesteading and off-grid living but we had our hands full getting set up here first. I will be hosting the weekly show starting on Friday, March 4th at 12 pm (Atlantic Time). Moving forward, my chapters are going to be tied in with my weekly show, still telling our story of how our project is coming along, but also highlighting the many other people we have met doing similar cool projects, either living off grid or homesteading (or both) or talking to the resource centers that I have connected with or researched in my own journey to make this whole project possible.
Winter is certainly a time for rest, recuperation and planning for the next season. With this in mind, we have really come to appreciate what a major step we took in moving to Nova Scotia and are beginning to think ahead for this next year. If last year had a theme for us, it would have been Establishment. If this year has a theme, it will be Stabilization. Winter has made us stop, and it really has demonstrated that we have everything we need already, so our focus for the farm and for our goals should be to stabilize ourselves so we can grow at a more sustainable rate. This permission to take time to ground ourselves feels at my core like the right decision and it is slightly different than I had anticipated. I am very much looking forward to balancing out the physical labor with my own business development and meeting more community members through the radio show. Things are coming together nicely- now if only spring would arrive!
Thanks for reading 2 Kids Off-Grid! ï»¿Next week I'll be sharing the first episode of our new show on 88.7 CoveFM. Subscribe to get new chapters weekly by signing up for our newsletter below.
Just two working class kids living off-grid. Follow us on our journey building a sustainable farm and butcher shop in the South Shore of Nova Scotia, Canada.