Monday, January 5, 2009

Looking back

It's hard to believe that I'm writing about the holiday season in past tense already. I mean really, people -- where did 2008 go?

But now that both kids are back in school, the holiday dust has settled and life on the farm has returned to our version of normal (complete with a barn flood and power outage -- more on that later), I've had a chance to do some reminiscing about the past year.

Just this morning, Lucas and I looked at each other, with incredulity and wonder and asked, "How did we get here?" You'd think after six months we'd be done asking that question but when a dream comes true, it takes a while to sink in.

Truth be told, moving to the farm isn't the first time I've had a dream come true. The day I married my husband and the births of both my children are the most important occasions of my life.

But moving to the country, living just as we're living right now, was for a long time something that seemed beyond our reach.

It was just over a year ago, New Year's Eve 2007, that Lucas and I had a mutual feeling that 2008 would be a "big" year for us. I half-expected this "big" would have something to do with our careers. Lucas had just quit his job and was looking for a new opportunity and now that the kids were getting older, I'd hoped to spend more time building my freelance writing career.

We had a good life -- fabulous friends (who I still miss dearly), a great school for our kids, a comfortable home -- but we were faced with a growing feeling that our beliefs were becoming incompatible with our lifestyle.

We wanted to move away from heating our home with fossil fuels, but we lived in a 150-year-old semi-detached home, surrounded by mature trees and close to a major road, that was not a good candidate for retrofitting or even supplementing with alternative energies.
I wanted to grow more of our own food but our backyard was a shady haven for hostas and impatiens -- not vegetables (though had we not moved when we did, I was to have a plot in our town's first allotment garden.)

We wanted to raise our own animals, surround ourselves with open spaces and get away from the buzz of city life. Moving to another part of town, even on the outskirts, just wasn't an option as housing prices were going through the roof and developers were circling the city limits.

Besides, our once small town was becoming too busy, too big-box, too suburban.

We knew it was time to move on, before we'd grown even stronger roots to our community. But truth be told, we were scared.
We worried that if we moved to a small town, we'd have difficulty making a decent living. What's more, we'd lived in our old town for nine years and we'd grown to love the familiarity of it all. We'd be starting from scratch, again, but this time with two young children -- which made a move that much scarier but also that much more imperative.

My dad and his wife had moved east of the GTA only a couple of years earlier and we were taken by our impressions of a more relaxed pace of living. We decided to look "east" and we gave ourselves a window of about two years.

Then in late March, I attended a sustainability symposium in Belleville, Ontario. The night before, I stayed at a lovely bed & breakfast, the Motley Manor on Lilac Grove Hill, in Madoc, Ontario -- about 35 minutes north of the symposium. I spent a solid two hours chatting with the owner and her mother, who was visiting, about the area and our dreams for a simpler life.

Visiting the symposium the next day, with its presentations on sustainable food systems, alternative home construction and green energy options, cemented my belief that we were on the right track.

Then just two weeks later, I attended the 2008 Farmland Preservation Forum in Guelph, Ontario, which was essentially a discussion on strategies to help ensure access to land for the next generation of farmers. At my table was a gentleman from FarmStart, a non-profit organization that helps young and new farmers get started, as well as the Executive Director of the Quebec Farmer Association (QFA).

As we went around the table, introducing ourselves and explaining why we were at the conference, I could feel my stomach churning and the palms of my hands started feeling clammy.
When it was my turn to speak, I said that I was a representative of P.O.W.E.R. (a Halton-Ontario based environmental organization of which I was a board member) but I was also an aspiring farmer. It was the first time I'd voiced our dream to anyone beyond a close circle of family or friends.

No one laughed. In fact, a few people smiled and nodded their head in approval.

Then, at the lunch break, the ED of the QFA sat down with me and started asking about our plans. The more I talked, the less crazy I started to feel. What's more, I started believing it was possible.

Then he asked me, "If you didn't try it, would you regret it?" and without hesitation, I answered "Yes." He asked me, "Then what's stopping you?"

What's stopping us, indeed.

I can scarcely remember the rest of the conference. My mind was a whirlwind of possibility and I couldn't wait to get home. Lucas and I had been having conversations about a modern-day homestead for years (I was more nervous than he, by far) and just recently, we'd started voicing our ideas with my dad. But now, our dream was truly "out there."

Now, I'd been browsing for online property listings for ages and I hadn't yet found anything that even resembled our pretty specific dream list. I was starting to think that we'd never find it: a three-bedroom century home on 50 to 100 acres with outbuildings, a pond or a stream, with a sizable woodlot and pasture, all within our price range.

But within a week of the conference, I'd found a property that was all that. Twelve days after the conference, on a Tuesday in late April, we visited and placed a successful offer on the farm we now call home.

Of course, when a dream comes true, it's easy to left with the feeling of "what's next?" Thankfully for us, whether it's the union of two people, the birth of a child or a move to the country, we're guaranteed years of memories in the making.

We still have lots of work to do and we're struggling to make a decent living. To say our learning curve is steep is a gross understatement. But we've never once said, "We made a mistake" or wished we were anywhere else.

So while 2008 was the year of something "big", we hope 2009 will be the year of lots of new "little" beginnings.


AJ Saville said...

What a wonderful post Fi... that's so much for sharing!
It was a big year for you - I can only imagine you (in all your lovliness) packing up a house, labelling each box with all contents exactly as they were placed in the box... but you survived it. And the future looks bright. Well, right now, as it's just after midnight, the future looks dark and snowy... but you get what I mean. You're fulfilling a lifelong dream, which is something I hope I can continue to do as well. Don't give up now, you're almost there!
Farms have their own issues, different from the city. You'll have to continue to grow as you learn all about them. It's part of the fun of it!

Best wishes for an awesome 2009, for you and everyone in your family.
See you Friday!

Claire said...

This is such a lovely, lyrical post!

Fiona said...

Ah shucks, Claire and Amanda!

Related Posts with Thumbnails