30 years ago we bought 28 acres of rolling pasture, meadows, wetlands and mature oak, basswood and maple forest.
30 years ago we bought a sense of peace and tranquility. It’s a bit wild and yet accessible at the end of a very long driveway.
The wild; we share with foxes, owls, deer, fishers, beavers, bears, occasionally a golden eagle, a bald eagle, a red tailed hawk and lots of chickadees, robins and blue jays.
I remember the first year we were there, watching a flock of a dozen blue jays fly out of the canopy thru the morning mist. I knew then, this was a magical place.
We built a home, a small barn, fenced the property and tried to live the 100 mile diet as vegetarians. You can find that story here
Wendell Berry is a better spokesman for the farm that I could ever be. His essay The Agrarian Standard best articulates my feelings about agriculture and rural community.
An educational “troublemaker” named John Taylor Gatto lead us to the property by advising looking 20 minutes beyond a reasonable commute to get into the country. Ottawa, Kingston or Peterborough are each an hour and 10 minutes in any direction.
John Gatto built a small home inside a large barn filled with books, kooky no? Sometimes kooky is good. He has since passed on but his retreat was called solitude farm.
We are so far out that once you pass our place you start coming back into some other place. Far out man. Set Google Maps to “hippy” to find our place
Our retreat is called the Poetical Asylum;
Poetical: fancifully depicting an ideal, worthy of lyrical description.
Asylum; a place offering protection and safety; a shelter
After our 25 years of vegetarianism we realized the folly. Slow learners we were. Truly sustainable and healthy it turns out is meat and potatoes. Both easy to grow on our rough edge of the Canadian Shield made up of mostly glacial till.
Growing soy and corn was not an option on this land, veganism makes so much sense on paper; or in the city at the Green Door restaurant, but in the bush when you are trying to grow your own food. Not so much.
We started keeping beef and for about 10 years kept cattle and marketed grass fed beef as Lanark Highlands Grass Fed Beef.
I got from mid thirties to mid sixties. the worst of that story can be found here. The house I planned to retire to and grow my food on is no longer practical. The burden of tasks is a bit overwhelming but I soldier on.
So I keep going “thru the snow” because:
1: It keeps me busy tending the house. Maybe to busy but I enjoy the work.
2: The value of property is what the value of property always is and has nothing to do with money. The value is simply food and security. A way to brace for impact. I can grow my own grains and root crops, cattle and poultry on this property. You could have worse hobbies.
3: These are a few of my favorite things;
~The heat of the fire crackling in the winter,
~Splitting Cedar for kindling and Oak for the sauna,
~The orange glow of the fire at midnight as you go to bed
~The owls hooting over the peepers in the early spring evening.
~Did the peace symbol of daffodils come up or was it eaten like the one of crocus last year.
~Getting maple syrup from Wenda in Snow Road Station, you cannot get maple syrup at Costco, they sell something, its just not Wenda’s.
~The early spring after the snow is gone but before the mosquitos, its the best time in the forest.
~Tilling the garden on my tractor. The smell of the earth, picking stones.
~The mosquitos in sync with the budding of the trees and the dozens of types of dragon flies of June that wipe them out.
~ The glow bugs in June and the lake in July
~I want to see if that patch of milkweed I planned in the garden attracts monarchs this year.
~The tractor bucket full of potatoes and pumpkins.
~The deer bleating in their rut in the fall.
Always something to plan, something to anticipate. The seasons.
4: When we bought the land it was on the advice of a friend who was an accountant. He told me of a client that died in his late 60’s; had a dream of a small farm but died with a big RRSP instead. All taxed in one high income year upon his death.
His advice; seize the day, enjoy, do not wait. I took his sound life advice, rather than a BMW I got a pickup, and my foolish adventure, the Poetical Asylum is now worth the million dollars I would have saved and probably never enjoyed.
If I had waited to enjoy it in my 60’s i would not have done it. So here I am. Enjoying my retirement caring for the property I wanted, saving it for my kids
By doing the practical you doom yourself to the inferior, you forfeit your potential. You become subservient to salesmen and charlatans. You become indistinguishable from the cattle that graced my fields.
When your life is a search for entertainment you have given up being a form of art, your genetics wasted, you become an evolutionary dead end, not a variation.
And that is why I do the illogical and struggle on knowing of course the big blizzard is coming, and smiling about it. Because you cannot really enjoy a blizzard unless you are storm staid in the bush a mile from your nearest neighbor, the lines are down, the sound of the generator humming in the background, snug as a bug in a rug by a crackling fire with a cup of coffee in hand, knowing your there, no one can disturb you, ahh but for only the next 2 days.
Weird Sly Kip April 2022, while in the city, surrounded by green lawns, 6 foot fences made from the red cedar rain forests waiting to return to the Poetical Asylum.