Yes, it’s not lost on me that it’s no longer summer anymore. But apparently you can’t expect me to post to the blog during the summer, or more than twice a year. This past summer has been so crazy that blogging has never really made it to the top of the priority list. But lately things have been feeling just slightly more under control, so… here we go!

Construction mania!

I remember late last winter thinking, Hmm… two houses and a winterized cabin going up in one summer… sounds a little bit crazy, but I’m sure us homesteaders can handle it! Well, handle it we kinda have. Maybe with a little less speed than we’d hoped. For one, there’s a heck of a lot of steps involved in building a house, and it’s never quite as straightforward as you think. The other factor is money, which, if you don’t have it, you end up having to spend half the time earning it so that you can pay for materials and labour. On top of this, building a house on the side of a mountain – consisting of load after load of concrete, giant stones, and timbers that take six people to carry – requires reserves of strength, clever engineering, and oftentimes your neighbour’s tractor (and your neighbour to drive it!).

An’s home

An’s house site, if you recall, is on the lower side of the lane as you enter the property. It started out as a giant pit that was dug last spring. Following a similar construction style as the rest of the houses on the farm – slip-form masonry and timber-frame construction – An and Jeremy have been learning a ton as they face the monumental task of building their first house from scratch. Over the course of the summer they’ve done an impressive amount with the resources available to them.

6Footing form construction begins!

6Getting ready to pour the footings

12The crazy shute they built to direct the concrete into the forms

6First course of slip-forms begins

Fast-forward to today! Now the foundation is done, which incorporates a large cistern for their water supply as well as a root cellar. They’ve already finished one course of slip-forms for their berm and buttress walls, and are rocking the next level. With their site having such a steep grade, they have had to engineer chutes and bridges and whatever else to make the best use of gravity, as they figure out what works best for getting the concrete and stonework in place.

4Below-grade concrete complete, second course of buttress wall forms being filled

8Current state of construction

Their aim is to have the concrete work finished and the timber frame in place and wrapped before winter. We’re rootin’ for ya!

Rodney’s home

Just across the lane from An’s site and up quite a steep slope is Rodney’s house site. Employing Deryk’s construction expertise, Wayne’s indispensable tractor driving and heavy lifting, as well as Laurence’s trusty carpentry skills, the four of them have been a powerhouse of construction since the spring. I think last time I blogged, the building site had only just been cleared. Well, there’s plenty more to see now, and Rodney has been great at keeping on top of photographing the process:

6First above-grade slip-forms ready for concrete

6Stone-faced buttress walls revealed

6A view from behind

6Buttress walls complete, chimney next

12Stone walls cleaned of concrete reveal beautiful patterns

6A view of the finished walls

6Timber frame is raised!

6Rafters almost all installed

6Frame in place, now sheathing goes on

6Roof on, house wrapped, below-grade concrete sealed and insulated

6Strapping attached in preparation for shingling

Inside, most of the insulation is complete and some of the windows are in. Rodney, Deryk, and Laurence are putting in as many hours as they can to get this house sealed up before winter so that Rodney doesn’t have to spend another winter in his tiny little hut. Thankfully, fall weather has been quite forgiving lately, and we’re hoping it’ll last!

Triangulaire

As mentioned in my previous post, Laire and I took on the task of building Laire his own A-frame cabin in the woods behind our house, which we dubbed Triangulaire. And as hoped, our lovely Adam did indeed arrive at the farm in May, and generously took on the role of lead carpenter for this project all summer long. Using his snazzy design and technology skills he whipped up 3D plans for the structure, which helped us calculate our framing materials with precision. We had Wayne mill us all the 2×4s and 2×6s we needed.

6Paul and Laire hauling 2×4s that Wayne milled

6Triangulaire’s floor frame – it’s a start!

Although we were somehow thinking we would be able to finish this cabin by early summer (ambitious much?), we haven’t had near the amount of time to dedicate to the project as hoped. Laire and I, and Adam as well, were all involved in various other jobs over the summer, and sometimes had commitments that took us away from the farm for weeks. Then while here, taking care of the gardens, making cheese regularly, doing the farmer’s market (before we agreed to drop it) – and indeed, working regular jobs – all took away from building Triangulaire. Nevertheless, progress has continued slowly and steadily, and it’s now getting quite close to being done!

Rafters going up!Rafters going up!

Roof strapping going up!Roof strapping going up!

Making progress with TriangulaireMaking progress with Triangulaire

Roofing and flashing is on!Roofing and flashing is on!

View from insideView from inside

We wouldn’t have got anywhere without Adam ❤️We wouldn’t have got anywhere without Adam ❤️

Adam tested structural integrity by hanging his hammock insideAdam tested structural integrity by hanging his hammock inside

First window installed!First window installed!

Laire's getting happier every dayLaire’s getting happier every day

The farm

While all this construction was going on, everything else that goes on at the farm, of course, kept buzzing along as usual. And just to keep us extra busy and entertained, we’ve had many guests and volunteers come to the farm over the summer, and that’s been quite wonderful. Unfortunately, we don’t have photos of all of our visitors, but you guys know who you are! I know you’re reading this.

Goats and cheese

This year, we have four milking does, with whose milk I’ve kept quite busy making cheese. When I didn’t have time or was away from the farm, Rodney was able to pick up the slack by making butter or feta. Most of our visitors have tried their hand at milking, and one time we even had a couple here who both grew up with goats. I didn’t have to show Bronwen and Carl anything, really, which was pretty neat.

Bronwen helping with milkingBronwen helping with milking

Carl helping with milkingCarl helping with milking

Mocha’s still our best producerMocha’s still our best producer

With all this milk, I’ve finally been able to collect enough fresh milk to make hard cheese regularly. So far I’ve tried making four different aged hard cheeses: a parmesan-like one, an alpine style, gouda, and lately, cheddar. Unfortunately, it’s a little early to be tasting them yet (they need a minimum of six months to a year), so I can’t tell you yet if I was successful. They’re mostly all waxed, and hanging out in the barn root cellar, the most consistently cool spot on the property. Fingers crossed!

Cheddar cheesemaking at Thor’s DenCheddar cheesemaking at Thor’s Den

You might be wondering what’s going on with those cute kid goats from the spring. In the interest of sparing you some emotional turmoil, let’s just say they’re all alive and well and hanging out in their separate pasture, getting nice and fat in preparation for their arctic vacation.

The zoo expands

Among the new arrivals on the farm this year is a very cute canine named Lafayette. Laurence got her earlier in the summer, and she’s a very friendly, if sometimes a little mischievous, puppy, who I probably shouldn’t be calling a puppy anymore.

Laurence makes a new friend!Laurence makes a new friend!

Lafayette as a puppyLafayette as a puppy

Lafayette is super lovableLafayette is super lovable

We also have a new clutch of ducklings, which is great, because last year the hens must have been distracted and forgot to have kids.

The “ducklings” are almost fully grownThe “ducklings” are almost fully grown

And of course, the farm cats, Boodle and Meowkel, are alive and well, and as annoyingly affectionate as ever. (Okay, I’ll admit it, I love the rascals.)

Meowkel demands pettingMeowkel demands petting

Boodle never gives upBoodle never gives up

The gardens produce

Once again we’ve had a pretty great growing season here. A little wetter than usual, sparing us the task of ever having to water the outside gardens (just the greenhouses). One of the great improvements to the farm this year was gravity-feed irrigation from Snow Lake! Adam played a big role in getting that set up. There were a couple hurdles, including meddling by beavers, but we got past them and managed to get decent pressure all the way to the greenhouses at the highest elevation.

Snow Lake in the summerSnow Lake in the summer

Gardens planted and growingGardens planted and growing

Greenhouses producing at their peakGreenhouses producing at their peak

Glorious bloomsGlorious blooms

We did manage to find time to do several weeks of the summer market, but halfway through the season, we found that it was just too overwhelming with everything else that was going on here. We ended up with a ton more summer squash than we needed, but whatever we couldn’t feed to the goats or our friends, we made some preserves with. As usual, the work of preserving the harvest has taken up a good chunk of late summer and fall.

Only had time for a few market days this yearOnly had time for a few market days this year

Bread baking at Dragonfly CottageBread baking at Dragonfly Cottage

Preserving, the fall routinePreserving, the fall routine

Can’t go wrong with pickled fiddleheads!Can’t go wrong with pickled fiddleheads!

Now, what’s summer without a little fun?

While we’ve been working pretty hard this past season, and indeed still are, there was still time for some of us to take some extra time to leave the farm and enjoy what this beautiful province has to offer. So here’s a very small, heavily biased sample of some of the adventures we got up to this summer. And breakfast time.

Breakfast timeBreakfast time

Backyard bonfire in the spring when C.T. and Shayne were visitingBackyard bonfire in the spring when C.T. and Shayne were visiting

Adam, our heroAdam, our hero

Road trip to Cape SplitRoad trip to Cape Split

Ariane, Cam, Anna and me at Cape SplitAriane, Cam, Anna and me at Cape Split

Heading home in Hogie; looks like I’m driving but that’s the passenger sideHeading home in Hogie; looks like I’m driving but that’s the passenger side

Being beach bums with Jeremy’s friendsBeing beach bums with Jeremy’s friends

Lake dipLake dip

Camping timeCamping time

Enjoying Nova Scotia wildnernessEnjoying Nova Scotia wildnerness

And of course, nothing like a good ol’ frame-raising, this time at our neighbours’ place, Sally & Howard.

Getting togheter to raise the walls of Sally’s cabin

See you again in… six months or so!


About Farmer Paul

Paul grew up in a yuppie-laden Toronto suburb, though he lucked out having been raised by eccentrics who rejected the neighbourhood status quo and converted the lawn into organic gardens. In his starry-eyed 20s, his obsession with living sustainably subdued his interest in high-tech anything (somehow scraping by with a computer science degree all the same). His interest in farming was piqued while apprenticing at Everdale, an organic farm in Ontario, and studying permaculture design in BC. He's since operated three market gardens, and now takes a lead in garden management and cheesemaking at Snow Lake Keep.

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