Putting the Heart Back Into It: Rebuilding Our Farm

Happy autumn, friends! Here’s hoping it’s been a kind season so far, and that you’re safe, wherever you are. We’ve all had some pretty crazy weather to deal with over the past few months – wildfires and hurricanes, floods and landslides. We hope the shift into the cold season promises a bit of a break from all of this fear and the need to constantly rebuild the places we call home.

Speaking of rebuilding! We’ve had several people ask us if we’re all right, since the blog has been very quiet this summer (our last post was about the spring, whoa!). We’re fine, and we’re grateful for your check-ins. It’s been a crazy rebuild summer here at Larch Grove, and we’ve been juggling long work days with ongoing tiredness. The past five months have been a nose-to-the-grindstone marathon (as with so many who live on the land), and we’re grateful for the autumn and the chance to emerge from work and look around.

We moved the farm this summer.

For those who’ve asked, nope, we didn’t pack up and sell. Our hearts are too bonded to this place, and we feel a deep respect and love for it. But we were looking at yet another flood year in our county (thanks, global warming), and so we knew that we needed to make a change. We’re only two people, and we can only rebuild the farm from flood seasons so many times before that work punches the heart out of us. Larch Grove is everything to us, and this summer, we knew we needed to act in order to keep this place we call home.

Some of you may remember our post about road-building back in January (you can read it if you skim down the page here on the blog). Our first act in order to move the farm was to work with a local road crew to building a “floating” road over the muskeg. We’ve got an old hayfield at the “upper” end of the quarter (said with quotation marks because it’s only five feet higher than the rest of the land), and we knew we needed to reach that hayfield if the farm had a hope of succeeding. It was really interesting to learn about geomat, the woven fabric matting that underlies our new road, and how it allows the road to basically surf on top of the muskeg. The water still moves through the muskeg below the road, but the geomat keeps the roadbed from disappearing into the bog by dispersing the weight of vehicles outward.

The road build went ahead when the ground was frozen back in January and the windchill was -45C. This spring, we worked on our own with a skid steer and load after load after load of gravel to even the roadbed and fill in the ruts (yeah, new gravel roads are mercurial beasts). All summer, our good friend Mark was working on building the small farmhouse we’d designed, and his plan was to truck the house out to us in July and get it onto screw piles when the ground had dried up.

Enter six counties between Mark’s place and ours…six counties who struggled to agree on…anything.

It took two and a half months of delays, but the farmhouse finally arrived down the new road at Larch Grove during the first week of school. (And yep, we’re both teachers, so you can imagine how crazy that was!) But it ARRIVED. It’s finally here on the farm. And it’s beautiful. It’s a bit of a magic creation in that it looks so small from the outside, but the inside, with the high-trussed ceiling, is all air and light.

Farmhouse

We brought the little cabin along with us from the old farm site, too, dragged down the new road by skid steer and trailer.

Moving the Little Cabin

It’s been unbelievable how quickly our hearts have settled into the new location up on the hayfield. The light is bright and true. The breeze is constant and cleansing, which will be great for both the garden and the bees. The sky, once shuttered behind the tall black spruces surrounding our old market garden, is an incredible presence: the sun, the moon, the stars, the Northern Lights. It took us twelve years of saving and planning to get this move done, but it took us only a few hours to come to call this place home. (The resident moose are coming to terms with us being here, too; they’re certainly not shy about peering in the windows to see what’s up!) Check out how many moose have been looking in the window overnight:

Moose Tracks

While on summer break from her teaching job, Jen took on a massive freelance project, building a program in environmental literature. It was a lot of extra work, but great news for the farm: that freelance work allowed us to purchase the wood cook stove we’ve always dreamed of, an energy-efficient, low-emission La Rosa XXL. With 135 acres of wood outside our front door, the stove will be both the heating and cooking centre for the farmhouse.

La Rosa XXL in Farmhouse

For the first time in more years than we can count, we feel hope again at the farm. We’re no longer scared about the house and garden flooding (we’ve got a great ditch system in place now around the hayfield that manages flood water and channels it to our big pond). We’re excited for the projects to come in the spring: a new solar array we’ll spend the winter designing, a wash house/laundry house, the building of a quonset for garden gear, and – most of all – the creation of a new market garden out here under the sky. It feels as though the farm has a whole new lease on life.

Thanks for your patience here, friends, while we were working out on the land. We’re grateful for your care in checking in on us, your willingness to journey with us, and your continued presence as we build this new iteration of our farm. More than anything, we want this to be a place that can be shared, so don’t be strangers. C’mon by when you can.

Field View