New Beginnings


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”    Walden and Civil Disobedience. Henry David Thoreau

Our move to Cochrane, Ontario may not have been as dramatic as all that,  but the impact of that geographical change cannot be understated.   

Spirituality:  I am more in touch with nature and myself.  I have been able to do a lot of personal growth work while living here.

Mental Health:  I am bipolar and have ptsd.  Since we moved to Cochrane, my meds have been decreased by half.  Many factors have been involved, but living a life removed from much of the hustle and bustle of society, with regular exercise and fresh air, has a lot to do with it.

Physical Health:  I have shed fifty pounds in our time here.  I can tie my shoes without having to come up for air.  My cardio is good and my blood pressure has decreased to healthy levels.  I am in the best physical shape since a loooong time ago.  I await a knee replacement, so have some limitations, but doing well.

Relationships:  Sarah and I hit a really rough patch a few years back, but we are better than we have ever been.  Sarah is my soulmate and angel, and none of this would be the same without her wisdom and compassion.

Our first purchase in this area was 180 acres with a river running though the middle.  It is beautiful land, and we still possess it, but after some serious reflection, Sarah and I realized there was no way we would have the skills or stamina to build something off-grid in that location, so we set about looking for another piece of land in the area.

Short story…we now live on an acre of land at Dora Lake, about 20 minutes from the town of Cochrane, Ontario (there is a place of the same name in Alberta, so it is easy to get confused).  We purchased the land with a small house, about nine years ago.  I will post comparison pics along the way.  This is our fifth winter living here full-time.  There are a few families in our settlement, but most people are cottagers, hanging out during the summer months.  Winter is busy here, with over 10,000 km of groomed snowmobile trails, ski and snowshoe trails, and other winter activities.

We called our place “The Asylum”, with its intentional double meaning.  A place of safety.  A house for lunatics.  I am bipolar, so we thought it fit.  Sarah is undiagnosed, but definitely disturbed, lol.  And we like to have dinner parties.

We have a greenhouse, a lot of gardens, and some walking trails to the lake behind our place.  Not many food fish in the lake, but tons of wildlife.  We have been visited by moose (one bit the tops of some fruit trees before moving on), black bears of varying sizes, coyotes, wolves, foxes, eagles, hawks, and migratory fowl.

Sarah and I are not real fishermen or hunters.  I would just as soon enjoy nature as it is, but have nothing against a good bear roast or some pickerel.  I am content to let others brave the bush in search of food.  I trade my skills as a cook for bear or moose, by smoking it for others.  I get a portion as thanks.  I go river fishing sometimes.  If you have ever had the misfortune of watching me back up a boat trailer to a launch, you will understand why I stay off the lakes.

I will post some favourite recipes as we go along.  I am not a vegetarian.  I am aware of the ethical issues around meat.  Composting for my gardens would be tough without that beautiful manure produced by my neighbours’ barn animals.  And I like meat.  We DID decide this year to cut way back on our meat consumption in response to the well-known health and environment issues.  I am not a fanatic about most things, so there you go.

I believe in organic/permaculture gardening methods.  Again, I am not a fanatic, so some may call into question my use of these words.  Oh well…I will tough that one out.  These practices are loaded with mythological and unscientific thinking, but there is so much wisdom, and this is nothing new for me, having been a long-time follower of Rodale’s and Mother Earth, both wonderful publications.  I will write about some of the things I have learned about gardening in general, but with more of a focus on gardening in the north.  Our season is short and frost can make growing many things a challenge.

When I speak of the north, dear readers, I am speaking of real north (not “far” north, as that is a whole different climate).  And not the suburb of Toronto, called Muskoka, that brags itself up about being “northern”.  Giggle.  We get more than a few days each winter of -40 and then wind chill on top of it.  We get a lot of snow.  The kind of snow load that needs to be shovelled off roofs of our various buildings when it gets too heavy.  Fun.

I have a greenhouse heated with a wood stove in colder weather.  So I can grow some things inside and protected.  I start my own plants from seed and protect them in there until the weather outside becomes warmer.  Tomatoes and peppers can be challenging.  If you know your plant zones, we are either 2b (sub-arctic) or 3a, which is where I would put us.  Zones are “best guesses” but things like height of the land, types of beds, whether there is shelter from strong winds, and other factors affect how plants will grow.

Zone 3a is described this way:  Temperate short summer.  Short, warm summer, average July max less than 30C, with long days.  Winter ranges from cold to very cold.  There are challenged, but one can produce a lot of food from a small piece of land.  This may become more important as global challenges from various sources, eg, climate warming, impact food supplies.  I will cover canning methods and some recipes as we go along on our journey.

That is enough for now, my dear readers.  I encourage comments, but kindness toward others is always appreciated.  I will be publishing a couple of things from another site I had.  That site no longer exists and I am not one to reinvent the wheel.  Some of it is useful to us now…much of it is not, so it disappears into history.


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