The tools of hedging include a tool called a "billhook".

This is apparently a cross between a machete-type cutting implement and an axe.

After watching several demonstrations on hedge laying, I can see how such a tool could be quite handy.  A few weeks ago I set about the business of trying to locate a billhook. A brief online search indicated that most suppliers were located unsurprisingly  in the United Kingdom.

I had resigned myself to going without the investment rather than pay the purchase and shipping costs. I had resigned myself, that is, until I came into a beautiful Peter Wright anvil.  This got me to thinking... could I pick up the craft of smithing once again?

Those of you who know me, know that in another lifetime I was a farrier - until all of my tools, including my forge and beloved anvil (for which I named my best friend - Petey) were stolen by a sociopath ex. Seriously, she stole most of my belongings and even my identity... but that's a story for another day.

Could I really get under another horse?  Why not? I'm sure that building, mowing, fencing, gardening, wood cutting and all the activities which go along with a new homestead will help me shed the pounds...

All of this rambling leads me to this - a homemade billhook.

I have more than a few old rasps laying around, and by gosh what a great way to get back into the swing of things (pardon the pun).  Now all I need is to "come into" a forge...

The art of hedge laying...

I've really become keen on using local (read: free stuff growing on my property) materials to construct various projects on the new farm - fences, chicken house, carport, small guest cabins, etc.  I'm sure it's becoming a familiar phrase to blog-readers,  however during my research I've discovered the re-emerging art of hedging.

Coming from a very small city in the heart of the Canadian prairie, I had always assumed that a "hedge" was the huddle of cotoneasters delineating our patch of front lawn from that of our neighbour.  As it turns out, hedges have a long and storied history - particularly in the UK, where there is a recent revival of the knowledge, use and construction.  Hedges may vary by style (often geographically), composition, binders/stakes, purpose, etc.

What exactly is a hedge?

A hedge is generally defined as fence or boundary formed by closely growing bushes or shrubs. These shrubs have been cut in such a way as to lay closely together, forming a barrier to livestock, a weather shelters for crops, or to simply provide a pleasing screen from obtrusive visual elements.

Why lay a hedge instead of regular fence?

Although it does take time for plants to become a usable size, this is generally not cost-prohibitive process.  A hedge provides habitat for birds, small mammals and insects.  Hedges are a living structure, using unprocessed materials which are not chemically treated or otherwise poisonous to the environment and being composed of natural materials present in the landscape and they are generally quite aesthetically pleasing.

All of these benefits aside, hedge laying is not a quick and easy task.  It takes time for plants to grow to a useable size and the construction of the hedge can be quite daunting - particularly if you have hundreds of metres to construct!  Luckily, there are some pretty fantastic online resources for history, materials and construction - google "hedge laying" and there are thousands of websites and videos available.

Our priority upon arriving at the property will be to construct two separate containment areas - one for the boy and one for the dogs.  Alders are quite common in the area and are prolific behind the proposed house site.  These alders will likely form the basis of my first hedge experiment.  If all goes well, and once we have a feel for the property, I will likely start planting with an eye to contain future livestock.

I wish I'd known all this when we lived in Wolseley, as the quarter-acre property we purchased there was entirely surrounded by severely neglected lilacs and maple suckers - both of which would have been perfect material for a dog-containing, perimeter fence.

As an aside - did you also know that the Nova Scotia government will provide land owners with spruce and pine seedlings for reforestation? Minimum order is 1 000 plants and are available for as little as .14/ea! 

Stormy weather...

A brief post today - looks like conditions are perfect for a tornado in the Regina area, later this afternoon.

Check it out at Tornadohunter.com.

Stay tuned for updates and photos, or go to Greg Johnson's Twitter feed for live updates.


Swimming in the water, swimming in the water...

As many of you know, I keep a few fish.  Hugo, Blanco and Oro are simple Goldfish, but they have been part of our household for over 4 years.  In fact, when listing off members of our family group, the boy is quite adamant that the "fishes" not be forgotten.

To that end, we have a 40 gallon aquarium in the living room for winter quarters, and a 75 gallon "summer home" pond on the back deck in which the fish reside.  I built the new deck/pergola/planter a few summers back and our fish reside in the middle portion of the planter.

As you can see in the photo, I built the deck before we completed our exterior remodel.  If we (n)ever do it again, I will be sure to finish the siding prior to decking.

The house as it is today - I am particularly pleased with my wee fence and contorted filbert.

Anyways, I digress...  We've made a bunch of changes to the house. The end.

Part of those changes was to add the pond on the deck.   Approximately four years ago, whilst researching ponds,  fish and aquatic plants became an area of interest to me.  I began to day dream about ponds big and small.

I also know that Laur would like to have a swimming pool.  However we are not interested in the cost of installation, the cost of heating and upkeep nor the inconvenience of maintaining a chlorinated body of water, and so a pool remained out of the question.

That is until one day, while conducting more pond research, I happened to come across this video - a "natural swimming pond".   I was hooked.

Check it out.


A fraction of the cost, no contractors, no poisonous chemicals, special plumbing, wiring, nor complicated filtering equipment.  It is entirely within our capabilities to construct ourselves and is all natural - will not harm water creatures, insects or plants.

If planted correctly and in correct proportions, water plants will do the actual filtering themselves.  It is easy to construct a mechanical means to circulate water.  I've already made several simple filters for the current pond. Adapting a filter for a pool large enough to swim is simply a matter of scale. Except for the pond liner and pump, all other materials can be found at hand - soil, and stones for the path/stairs are all on site.  Timbers and dimensional lumber can be made from trees already on the property. In fact, small saw mills are quite common in the valley and many people take wood from their own property to be sawn into lumber.

Plants can be transplanted from the creek side without any impact to the existing environment.

So what about water?  I did some further research and it appears in this instance that David Pagan Butler used rain water to fill his pool. This is certainly an option, but what about the near by spring-fed creek? It might be quite easy to construct a simple sluice from the running creek with no environmental impact.

The biggest downside is labor!  I can imagine hand digging such a large hole... and then renting an excavator.  In fact I'm sure our friend Gerard would help us with the technical advice.  This might be the best option, especially since the soil could be quite rocky.

But could the fish live in it, too? All of my research says it's best not to have fish, but I can't imagine three goldfish would place a burden on the system... three male goldfish that is.  Although it would be nice if conditions were perfect for breeding, having a zillion goldfish is not what I'm after.

Nonetheless, the possibility is exciting and the options are endless.  I know there is A LOT of other work to be done to the farmstead, but a little recreation never hurt anyone! 

Stay tuned for more blog entries - I've been researching saunas, how to lay a traditional hedge, building chicken coops, chicken breeds - meat vs eggs, oxen vs horses for heavier farm work, heritage seeds, DIY wide plank flooring and smoke houses.


So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, ADU...

Apparently Terri's request for more blog entries has struck a chord with me... I'm on a roll today!

We'd also like to have a ADU, of sorts.  The property is large enough to have a couple of rustic cabins placed strategically about. The rustic cabins could be used by guests, but more likely they would provide a tiny-boy "hiking/camping" experience for the family.

However, it is also our hope that one (if not both) of our mothers will also live on the property with us.  Because there may be future mobility issues, our plan is to provide a 300-500 sf, manageable, affordable, one-level cottage-home. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to build one of these!

Below are a few ideas we're floating.

An adaptation of Ross Chapin's design - Blue Sky Cabin - 350 sf

"Pretty Porch" - modified to increase square footage to 400 sf

Whidbey - Tumbleweed Tiny House Company - 461 sf
AW Allen - Laurier - the largest house at 572 sf

Now if only someone would take us up on the offer!



I'm not sure that we've ever published photos of the property. So, here are a few to spark your imagination.

 This is a screen shot from Google. It's about 1/3 of the way along the length of the meadow.

 The meadow, looking east. That hill is ours, too.

 Looking east from the entrance to the logging road. Our land extends to the top of that hill.

Looking south down the length of the meadow - approx. 4.5 acres. The highway is on the right.  This will be very close to our view out the front of the house.
A dead tree stands in part of the clear cut.

 Our very own fiddle heads!

 Logging road along the front portion of the property.

 Rock pile - there are a half dozen or so near the front of the property.
Each pile contains rocks hand-gathered from the fields, now overgrown.
It's hard to get an idea of scale, but the piles are approximately 10'W x 30'L x 4'H.

Laur's favourite place - the creek.

Third time lucky?

The lilac's heady scent is slowly fading into memories of springtime and time continues to plod forth into summer.

I've received a request for more blog entries, so here is some work-in-progress.

We've been in close communication with our builder, and are currently working on our third floor plan iteration.  The first plan was the main working plan, composed of the official drawings from AW Allen.  For some reason, on the second version they had flipped the whole house (i.e. mirrored it) which really changed things considering we're on a slope with a walk out basement.  You can imagine how it would be to exit the kitchen door to an eleven foot drop!

We're now on our third (and hopefully final) set of drawings. The house has been switched back and the main floor entrance is once again at grade.  Some minor changes include centering the window in the den/boy's room, centering the fireplace on the wall, adding another basement window and making a few changes to a wall downstairs.

Here's our (almostly certainly certain) upstairs floor plan - you can see our desire to spend time together as the public spaces are much larger and adaptable than the private spaces:

I removed the kitchen cabinets from the plan because I'm reasonably certain that we're going to do up our own IKEA kitchen plan, but you get the idea.

Here are some screen shots from the IKEA design tool.

 I particularly like the centre wine rack which holds up to 10 bottles.

The "Den" is going to be the boy's room for the time being - until his teenage-self decides to move to the basement... then he'll have the guest room. Laur might then move from the closet-office to the Den/boy's ex-room - we'll see.  Laur's idea is to also have a movable set of shelving which can provide privacy in the event we have more guests - living so far away from family, we hope to provide a base from which people can explore the region.

I think the boy and I are going to get into a lot of trouble in the 11' x 38' (approx) centre portion of the basement - bowling, hockey, gymnastics, doggie agility course, giant domino setup, trains, Lego, forts, slip n' slide (tm) - oh the options are endless! It's a giant hall!

The red portions of the basement indicate work we will do ourselves.