Broom, broom, broom. Tackling this invasive giant was our primary occupation for the first three months we lived here. When we weren’t out getting soggy with loppers in hand, we were scheming in the relative dryness of our trailers. As the winter gave way to spring, our first buildings began to crop up: a rustic outdoor kitchen, and a wood shed.
Soon our energies were directed at our individual projects: the two buildings which came to be known as the Shack and the Chalet. The idea was to throw up a couple small buildings to get us out of the trailers, while having a chance to learn more about building. Both the Shack and the Chalet were built on pier foundations. Zane stick-framed the Chalet and with a loft and dormer it was slightly larger than the Shack. Daniel painstakingly carved the joints of the timber frame for the Shack. Both buildings used truck loads of wood chips and local clay for the light-clay wall infill. By October we had finished a first plaster layer inside and out and were ready to move in. Winter was coming and even though there was a lot still to be finished on the buildings, we longed to be into the cozy spaces (ie, out of the trailers!).
After the building frenzy of the previous year we decided to go a bit easier in 2007. Partly it was the new addition to the family -Asher was born in Feb, and I was pregnant, due in August- and partly we were undergoing a bit of a re-evaluation. We decided that it made more sense to build the collective house (which we would all share, sleeping in separate wings) on the upper portion of the land, where we were already establishing ourselves, as opposed to the lower land, where we had initially envisioned the house site. This made sense on many levels: we already had power and water up there, and infrastructure, and it was where the views were. This meant though that we would need to take down a small stand of trees behind the kitchen in order to clear-up building and gardening space. After that big change, we focused on the gardens and had the pleasure of hosting our first die-hard woofers.
The excavator left a big job for us to do that summer: fill in an enormous drainage trench, which we did a lot of by hand, sifting our rocky soil through a screen.
The other main project that we took on was building a small dipping pond. I was anticipating a hot pregnant summer and didn’t want to have to haul myself to the river (about a 25 minute walk). I loved the idea of creating a small natural, circulating pond that would add amphibious life and water plants to our garden. We had the beaver pond down below but it wasn’t even in eye-sight from our buildings. The pond was completed just in time for my birthday though my dreams of spending hours lounging in the water were squashed by a relatively cool summer!
The days got shorter, Oren was born and fall loomed. Our previous winter in the outdoor kitchen had been rough- lots of running hot food to the shack to eat, and hauling plates back out to be washed- so we began to turn our thoughts to winterizing our kitchen. We decided that instead of winterizing the outdoor kitchen, we would turn the woodshed, which was a more solid building, into another warmer temporary kitchen. After about a month, we finally moved into it, and I don’t remember ever being happier- a floor! hot running water heated by a huge wood stove! even a bathtub and play space for the kids! This winter promised to be considerably more cozy than the previous, which was a good thing with a 3 year old, 10 month old and 4 month old to keep happy!
Around this time we decided to move into phase one of the building of the house- we would start the “West Wing”, the 500 sq. ft. part of the house that would be the bedrooms and living quarters for Dan, the boys and me. We knew Dan would need help though, so we flew out an old childhood friend of Dan’s from Nova Scotia, Sam. Sam would live with us for the next 9 months.
Before starting on the West Wing though we needed a place to put all those tomato seedlings that were growing under lights in the Shack and Chalet mudroom. So a greenhouse was constructed. Just a simple post and beam frame with poly stretched over it, the greenhouse nevertheless ended up being a beautiful structure. It was even more lovely filled with the heady scent of clambering tomato vines!
Shortly after the greenhouse was finished, work began on the West Wing, first with foundation work, and then with the mortising and tenoning of the joints for the timber frame. We had a whole number of wwoofers this summer, helping with the project, and the growing gardens, and keeping things lively. The babies grew, the food poured out of the garden, and many a good time was had.
While Zena and I spent a LOT of time canning that fall, Dan and Sam continued to work on the timber frame and by the winter had erected the bone structure. Sam earned his Degree in Homesteading and in February returned to Nova Scotia where he has started settling his own 200 acres on Cape Breton.