It has been a hot minute since I last wrote a post because so much has happened since we finished our quarantine.
Tyler and I spent two very relaxing weeks on our friend's property, walking down to the beach and up along the shore for our hour of daily exercise.
Along the coast in Pictou it is very wet and it rains often due to the proximity to the ocean. But we were exhausted from our two week sprint to move and then drive our 2-day road trip across Eastern Canada, so we ended up sleeping for the first three days without noticing the time passing and without any regard for the weather.
Highlights of our quarantine stay-cation were the ocean, crabs and jelly fish, copious cups of leisurely coffee and pancake breakfasts and afternoon naps. We had power, water, ample food supplies and Netflix to keep us occupied.
During quarantine we decided that it would be best if we found a campsite near Halifax to stay in for our first week so Tyler could start his new job without much of a commute and we could explore Halifax a bit to understand the layout of the city.
It is very difficult to pick a good place to camp on crown land if you have no idea what the landscape is like. We ended up staying at a great little campground called Woodhaven RV Park in Hammond's Plains, about 25 minutes from Tyler's new job. I called in advance to book our reservation and we were all set to go.
I also coordinated a storage unit rental in Halifax so we could unload the bulk of our belongings that were still packed tightly into my car, the back of the truck and underfoot in the trailer. We found a great spot in a brand new automated storage facility called Metro Self Storage and placed a reservation for the following Monday. We knew we would need a storage space once our movers arrived, so booking it early to unpack our vehicles and give us some breathing room seemed like a good idea. I emailed our movers when I was finished to let them know where we wanted our items delivered once our thirty days of free storage was up.
Monday morning we packed up our camper and cleaned up our site (#leavenotrace) and were on our way by 10 am. The drive down to Halifax was only about an hour and a half, but we were moving further in-land which meant a dramatic increase in forest density. I had spied a plot of land for sale that would be en route to Halifax, so we were planning to try to view that property on our way to the storage facility and finally the campground. After two weeks of no responsibilities and total isolation, Tyler and I were almost frazzled with having 3 WHOLE THINGS to do that day. The property was a bust because our agent didn't get any helpful information from the listing agent and the listing agent was not aware of the physical location of the land. The property seemed to require too much coordination to be worth our effort so we decided to just keep looking.
We arrived at the storage facility around 2:30 pm and unloaded our belongings to the unit. Within an hour we were back on the road and on our way to the campground. We were pretty happy with our decision to transition slowly to crown land camping because each stage of moving is very tiring, even if you have little to do. We set up our site, did a few loads of laundry and ordered some Thai food for dinner and just relaxed before Tyler started work the next morning.
My mission for the next week was to find a location on crown land close enough to Halifax for Tyler to commute. Staying in a campground was lovely at first, but we were on a budget and didn't want to spend upwards of $1500 per month to stay at a fully-equipped campground. I had heard about Crown Land Camping, one of Canada's best kept secrets, from my brother Jacob, but we had never done it before and we didn't really know where to start. Jacob lived out in Alberta and could only explain how to do it in Alberta, so I used his information as a starting point.
Crown Land Camping - How to find it no matter which province you are in!
Crown land is land that is owned by each province and pertains only to land in their own borders. Thankfully, the process to find land in each province is relatively similar, though Nova Scotia definitely has a more rudimentary system than the one I found for Ontario. Fun fact, ALL provincial parks fall under the umbrella of Crown Land, but you can't use them for "free" camping, so you have to make sure that a particularly desirable area doesn't already fall under a park system. Each province has a provincial GIS system that maps the province and you can select different filters for what you want- there are many choices like indigenous reserves or municipality boundaries, so you need to make sure you only select "crown land" when looking.
For Nova Scotia, you'll want to use this link to the Nova Scotia Open Data website where you can look at the whole province and zoom in where you know you are going to be traveling. In this way, I scouted three sites and matched them using Google Maps. I dropped a pin using my phone's Google Maps app so I could just Google the directions to the location and I saved the pins under identifiable names and then spent an afternoon driving out to each location to see their suitability for our plans. Unfortunately, those sites were really unsuitable due to proximity to residential communities and proximity to active logging sites. The second day that I went out was much more advantageous and we settled on a location just off the Ingramport Connector exit outside St Margaret's Bay. This location proved to be an excellent spot for us, with a beautiful creek, pads that were already graveled and leveled thanks to the booming forestry industry in Nova Scotia (probably the only thing I love them for since it is their habit to clear cut crown land but I digress).
Tyler entrusted me this search and just followed my lead on this endeavor, so after a week at work we packed up at the campground and made our way to our FREE spot for the next few weeks. There was a surprising amount of traffic on the crown land, but it was mostly from the avid community of ATV and dirt bike enthusiasts who would use the road/trail system for a whole bunch of off-road fun.
Once we moved to crown land we had two other major areas of concern that would need to be addressed: septic and water. We knew we definitely did not want to have to pack up our gear and run into town every week to pump out the sewer system and fill up our fresh water tank so we searched for a new process that was more off-grid friendly.
Off-Grid Basics: How to live without pump outs or running water.A suitable off-grid poop solution for us came inspired by the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins. This is basically a modified outhouse, where you do your personal business into a modified 5 gallon pail that has a toilet seat attachment and dump it when it is full into a compost pile. While camping off-grid however, we dug a small hole and buried our waste, as recommended by the provincial parks. This solution was great because we could place the toilet in our existing washroom and empty it as needed (roughly once a week). Another advantage is that a composting toilet uses no water to flush, reducing our fresh water usage substantially. We bought our lid and toilet seat from Canadian Tire, the whole system costing us about $30. We do have a certain advantage with Tyler working as a carpenter as he has an unlimited and free supply of wood chips from his worksite, but I have read you can get them from local lumber yards or mills too if you tried looking.
Our water solution was a little trickier to figure out. We started out with buying 4-5 gallon (or 18.9 L) bottles of water from the grocery store and filling our fresh water tank with them. To refill them, we read online from the Government of British Columbia that you could sanitize fresh water collected from the rain or a stream by filtering it and then adding a small amount of regular, unscented bleach. We sourced our water from a fast moving river close to our campsite and used a layered cheesecloth (purchased from the Dollarama) with an elastic band to hold it on while submerged. This filtered out any sediment and the bleach killed any water-borne bacteria. We knew this wasn't a good permanent solution as it is really only meant for emergencies, but we just needed something for the few weeks until we found our permanent property. We used this solution for about four weeks without any adverse health impacts so we think it was fine.
We ended up moving our rig from our initial spot which was right off the main crown land logging road due to the traffic and exposure. We found a side road with a dead end and ended up staying there for the final three weeks until we purchased our 20 acre property.
Thanks for following us on our journey off grid! My next post will be covering the search and acquisition of our 20 acre property. Subscribe to our updates in our journey off-grid by signing up for our newsletter below.