A new house, a new province, almost a new life…so much has happened these past few months since Will found his Cape Breton farm. After years of dreaming and planning we made an impulsive offer of purchase, a miraculous house sale, a wild and disastrous move with five children, four goats, a dog, a flat tire, two lost car keys, and —thankfully—a grandmother. (My intrepid mother came along as Baby Whisperer and kept Hermione happy while we drove for twenty hours.)
Our move was a series of disasters that made us doubt our sanity. Ah, but it was too late to change our minds. The house was already sold.
It was a giant, flying leap of faith to say good bye to everything familiar and a much-loved community and strike out to the rugged West coast of “darkest Cape Breton” as one friend puts it. We were lured here by cheap farm-land and the ocean climate, and we had no idea how awesome it would be.
Somehow we’ve managed to land in an amazing community. Writers, artisans, and back-to-the-land style organic farmers, educated people seeking a quieter, more intentional life, market gardeners, young and full of energy and eager to network. Cape Bretoners are famous for their warmth and generosity and the reports are not exaggerated! We are putting down roots fast, with the warm welcome and inter-connectedness of this community.
The farm is Will’s dream. His vision includes food sustainability, organic soil practices, fruit tree grafting, seed saving, and “permaculture”. It’s been percolating along side of his PhD. We joke
that the longer he spends in academia the the more he wants to be a farmer. The soil here is dense clay but good for the kind of agriculture he’s interested in. This land has good bones.
I can’t say the farm is really my passion—I’m just along for the ride. And for the ocean. It’s impossible for pictures to convey the kind of energy that sparks out of these waves and air. I feel more ALIVE here than any other place. If I can create a healthy home for my children, make soap, make art, and spend as much time by the water as possible, I will be happy to stay here forever, however poor we may be.
Our boys started school in the local public school. Mixed feelings all around, rather predictably from William “long and boring”, Hugh, “yeah, it’s ok. I met some fun kids and my teacher’s nice.” And Matthias: “Totally epic!” Will is apprehensive since he hated school as a kid, but I really need the break. I remind him that our kids weren’t big on home school either. We were un-schoolers by default. Anyway, I told Will that even if they’re in public school we can still keep up their education. So we’ve been reading Greek Myths every night and going through our favourite history book for children. Nice art and written as a kind of conversation between author and child. We have a great little library right around the corner from our house where we load up on our current interests: sea coast flora and fauna, Greek mythology, Robertson Davies.
The goats are thriving too. Henrietta the One-Horned Wonder, born this spring, is almost grown. Helm, our gentle, handsome little buck, is doing his duty and Josephine and Heloise are bred; new kids and new milk later this fall. They have the run of an overgrown apple orchard so they are in heaven.
There are no stores here other than grocery and hardware. We are almost two hours drive from the two bigger towns in Cape Breton with the big box stores. No internet at the house, either. The result is a kind of post-consumer, post-technology detox. My mind is clearer, days are more productive and creative.
There is so much to do here, community-wise, we can hardly keep up. I’m trying to paint my house as usual. Paint colours blah blah blah….this shade….agonize….that shade….
This is my progress so far. Little things keep interrupting like Front Porch Peter (our CSA neighbour who is the best) bringing by a billion pounds of zucchini and daikon radish. Food is expensive here so I didn’t say no. I hope he REALLY likes kimchi.
Of course I envisioned our house being painted in our first week: Will and I working side by side while our children entertained themselves in the long grass like Laura Ingalls Wilder. But fortune doesn’t favour the mother of screaming one-year-olds bent on self-destruction and Will has been problem-solving since day one when our well went dry.
Still, what is life for but work ? And creativity and play? This is what we love, and Cape Breton is a wonderful environment for doing what we love.