Originally Published November 30, 2021
Once we were set up on our campsite, our summer was quickly taken over by full time work and planning/executing the build for our barn (which you can read about in my next post!). It was also prime time to spend time exploring our new property and the surrounding areas. Before I jump into the huge project of building a barn, I'll tantalize you with some of the best parts of our property, some of the cool places we have had a chance to visit and the community of wonderful people we are being introduced to.
Exploring Our Land
So as you can imagine, we were not very familiar with our property or the surrounding area before we jumped in and purchased our land. We were looking at a time when the most affordable properties in Nova Scotia were getting snatched up, so once we had our basic requirements met, we pulled the trigger on the purchase.
Luckily for us, it seems that we have deftly escaped buyers remorse, which seems to be a growing problem around here with so many people buying properties without seeing them first. Contrary to this, it seems like we keep finding cool things to appreciate and love about the property, so it really feels like we won the lottery. We hope this continues as we become more familiar with the land over time.
Perhaps the best part about our property is the proximity to the Lahave River and the creek that runs from Lohnes' Lake through our property and into the river. When I first came to view the property, I did not know there was a creek here. The second time we came to visit, Tyler found the small brook and told me about it. As the summer progressed and we spent more time exploring, we have seen the brook change into a creek thanks to the work of some local beavers.
We have been measuring the flow of our creek diligently and noting how fast the flow is so we have a good sense as to whether it would be worth investing in a hydroelectric system (we use a super scientific method of counting how many milk jugs get filled in 60 seconds :P). According to one of our neighbors, Lohnes' Lake (the source of the creek) is spring fed so the water level rarely changes. We are now trying to understand the relationships between the beavers and the land and our plans to see if we can find a harmonious solution that creates a healthy habitat for all of us.
I'm pretty fortunate in that my Dad has worked in the renewable energy sector for the past ~20 years and is well versed not only in the different systems and sizes, but also the land use planning side of things as well. He's been quite happy to explain concepts to me and point me in the right direction for all my questions so we can design the right energy system for our needs.
Our new neighbor adjacent to us who borders directly on the Lahave River kindly gave us permission to launch our canoe from his property, so we took full advantage of this in mid summer right up to Thanksgiving.
I cannot express how magical it feels to be able to walk right from your house and launch off into a beautiful river full of flora and fauna and relatively free from any visible human impact. The Lahave is a beautiful river with a large variation in flow throughout the year. The shoreline changes so much that sometimes we can launch right from the shore and sometimes we have to portage as much as 50 feet to reach water deep enough to put the canoe in. There are large swathes of marshland along the shore line which make for excellent birdwatching. We can traverse the marshland by water and follow the winding waterways in and out of these inlets nearly completely hidden from view in the reeds.
From what we have read, our forest seems to be right between transitioning from a shrubland to a young forest. Our goal as stewards of this property it to try to help naturally remediate the forest by thinning the trees that were planted very closely together for monoculture harvesting (as it was an old Christmas tree farm) to allow the healthiest trees with the widest diversity to grow and mature.
A very cool part of this transition period is witnessing all the microbial growth in the form of...you guessed it...MUSHROOMS. We have been doing our best to learn how to identify all the amazing mushrooms we have seen on our property to learn how they work, why they are there and whether there are any cool uses for them that we could take advantage of. For now, all I can do is share some photos of the amazing variations we have discovered while hiking around.
For those who are in our area and trying to learn more about Mushrooms, I would highly recommend the Facebook group Backyard Foraging in Nova Scotia. Obviously any time you try to crowdsource information about something as variable as mushrooms you need to use proper discretion, but the group is very active and very informative to point you in the right direction to learn more about each species.
The other really interesting part of exploring more of the property in the fall is the ability to navigate through trails we couldn't even see due to the high foliage coverage from the deciduous trees. Once the foliage shed for the season, we were able to hike through old trails used by the last owner to access parts of the farm. We found some monster boulders and smaller, sprawling rock formations that were pretty cool. My pal Kora pointed us in the right direction to the natural history museum of Nova Scotia where we were able to learn about how the glacier fields in Nova Scotia created these deposits and their overall impact on the general land formations we have come to be familiar with around here.
There are so many places in the East Coast that we would like to visit, but being that we uprooted our life this year and have a limited budget both with time and money, we have only been able to get out a little bit to explore our new home. Here are some of the best places we have had the luxury of visiting, all of them within 5 hours of our new home!
Carter's Beach is possibly one of the best ocean destinations in Nova Scotia, notable for its sandy white beaches and warm-ish water (we got fully submerged and it wasn't just for the bragging rights). It was so good that we went back two weeks in a row even though it is more than an hour away. Though I have never been to the Caribbean, this is what I would imagine it feels like. The beach is actually a series of three crescent shaped beaches connected lengthwise to each other.
Between the first and second beach there is a channel of the ocean that is about knee height at its shallowest point. We brought Abby with us and she actually got coaxed to go for a swim! This is an unheard of phenomenon with Abby and caused a lot of excitement for us because we daresay she enjoyed it!
Fundy National Park
Fundy National Park was pretty high on our list for our dream East Coast vacation (jokes on us...we live here now!). It did not disappoint even though we only had a long weekend to spend exploring the site.
We packed up our canoe and bikes and headed out to the Chignecto campground for the Thanksgiving weekend. One of my oldest friends, Talia, was supposed to come on this trip with us as we were going to slide into Moncton to pick her up for a weekend away from her training as part of the CAF. Just days before the province of New Brunswick decided to issue a travel ban for the holiday and she couldn't come. This was a real bummer for us because I missed her and was greatly looking forward to sharing a weekend away with an old friend. Our plans however were not affected by the ban and we were able to continue on the trip even without our travel buddy.
We arrived pretty late in the evening on Friday so we just set up camp and had a nice bonfire evening together. We were up early the next day to start our hiking adventures, hitting up the Dickson Falls and Matthew's Head trails. Abby was a real champ and kept up with us on these shorter hikes, though by the end of Matthew's head she was pretty happy to hang out at the campsite (she is 13 after all). The combination of Acadian forest and coastal views makes the area feel more like British Columbia, but hey, we will take it since its an escape pretty close to home.
The next day we decided to be a bit more adventurous and canoe out into a bay for our first paddling excursion on the Atlantic. And it was terrifying. Amazing! But TERRIFYING. The sheer force of the current is enough for even more experienced paddlers like us to feel like we should never do that again, and we didn't even leave the bay! So we will be sticking to inland lakes and rivers in the future.
We launched off from the famous covered bridge in the park at the end of the low tide and got to see the beautiful, crystal clear water with large fish swimming in the lagoon under us (I think they were salmon?!).
We did however pack up a delicious lunch and paddle out to the final remote beach on the bay at high tide and enjoyed exploring the area before heading back in. The reputation for the fast rising high tide is quite accurate, as the beach we landed on was completely submersed by about a meter of water within 40 minutes. We did take the time to do our research and ensured we managed our trip safely. By going out at the end of the low tide/beginning of high tide we had little worry of getting swept out of the bay even with stopping for a small beach tour and lunch.
As a precaution I had pulled the canoe up onto the rocks we sat on for lunch, but I am sure glad I did because we wouldn't have gotten much food in us before having to run down to the beach and pull it up.
We put the canoe in when we started to feel like we should get paddling back in and we did get a teensy wet because it was difficult to manage the boat against the force of the waves on the rocks. Tyler steered us like the paddling pro that he is though and by the time we got halfway back to the launch point the current was taking us so swiftly in that we just let it do the work and enjoyed some chocolate and a selfie.
This wasn't quite as terrifying as when we crossed the St Lawrence river at the Mallorytown Landing, but the knowledge that we could freeze in just 12 seconds if we capsized raised the stakes substantially.
After we got in from our paddle it was still relatively early so we decided to head out for another hike and did the Moosehorn and Laverty Falls Loop. We both thought that this hike, though it had no coastal views, was far more interesting than the ones we did on the first day. We would come back in the summer just to try swimming in the beautiful lagoons.
Our final morning was pretty relaxed, we decided we wanted to try to get up to see the sunrise over the ocean so we woke up at 5 am. This was about 2 hours earlier than we needed to get up, but it was a pretty enjoyable time together watching the sun slowly creep up. It wasn't the most spectacular sunrise but we did enjoy exploring the Alma Beach trail before hitting the road home.
Peggy's Cove Most recently, I had a surprise visit from an old friend from university who decided to take a jaunt to Halifax for a solo retreat. It was awesome to have a chance to catch up on over 5 years of life and explore Peggy's Cove together.
When I imagined Peggy's cove there were a lot more trees in my mind. The site is quite austere and was absolutely beautiful just before the onset of winter.
It's not a big place to explore but it was beautiful and perfect for an afternoon together with an old friend.
One of the things I personally miss the most from Ontario was our wonderful community in Gananoque. I missed talking to friends and family at the brewery every day, collaborating with artists and musicians to run cool events and passing friendly neighbors on the street and hearing about what was new. I think I appreciated every drop of community engagement I enjoyed in back in Gan but the memory of it does make me a little homesick sometimes.
Meeting people is more difficult here since we aren't living in a small town but rather in a remote rural area. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook and Instagram, we have been able to meet some very cool people who have also migrated to Nova Scotia from Ontario to join us in the homesteading movement we are a part of.
The Honeywwoofer's Homestead
Will and Nessa are the Honeywwoofer's Homestead, a dynamic duo who have started a pretty neat farm on 80 acres in Springfield.
Their homestead takes its name after their love of wwoofing on their honeymoon! (How cool are these two?!) We met them by recommendation of Jess, another Ontario transplant, who told us about their Sunday open house (open farm?!). Will was kind enough to give me a pretty in depth tour of their space and how far they have come in just a year in Nova Scotia. We have had a chance to further collaborating with them through helping them slaughter their pigs and then butchering them for them (details coming soon in a future post!). They have also been kind enough to include us in some of their homesteading activities which has helped us meet some local Nova Scotians for which we are forever grateful.
Crows' Community Croft
Brynn and Vic are two awesome transplants from Edmonton who had the courage to purchase their 12 acres without even seeing it first (its amazing and they couldn't have done better). They are fearlessly tackling a monster project of building a sustainable and accessible community for others to join them. These two are the most similar to us in their project since we both purchased bare land with the intention of building from the ground up.
Though they don't have a background in building, they are approaching the project with level heads and a huge amount of energy. Tyler and I have been so impressed with everything they have been able to accomplish so far, their temporary camp is perfection itself. They even made us focaccia over a BBQ...right?!
They have been a huge source of friendship and support to us since we have had the pleasure of meeting them and we are so, so happy to be able to share with them, work with them and celebrate our successes together.
Other new friends
We have met a number of other new friends, but being cautious of sharing their presence online since they aren't necessarily here to start initiatives or businesses. Our pals Jon and Jess were the first people we met and Jess has been so kind in hanging out, coming over to do plant identification walks on our property, pickling beets together and most recently gifting us our new goat friends Jan and Fran. Jess is also very knowledgeable about the people and resources around our area and has been super helpful at pointing me in the right direction for finding things or services we need. We met our pal Shawn who lives near New Germany through Facebook and he is our farm fairy godfather keeping us in strong supply of farm fresh eggs (FOR FREE) and advice on all things off grid/hobby farming. I have also met some locals like Cheyenne, my goat guru and our neighbors James, Garnet, Nancy, Matt and Glen. The process of getting to know a community sometimes just can't be rushed so I'm trying to remember that we will feel more like 'Scotians with each passing day.
Thanks for following us on our journey off grid! My next post will be covering the first phase of building our pole barn to house us safely over the winter in our camper. Subscribe to our updates in our journey off-grid 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.