The Story so Far…

We moved to Bear River in September 2006 with high hopes of self-sufficiency.

Have we achieved that goal? Sometimes we feel we may have, at other times it feels like we have only touched the tip of the iceberg. But is it really possible or even desirable to be truly self-sufficient? Probably not!

Anyway, let me tell you about some of the things that we have managed to do on our sixty acres.

abandoned farmland
The slopes of our land are covered with wild blueberry bushes but the alders were starting to take over.
raised vegetable beds
The garden during our first summer.


The first goal was to provide the family with freshly grown, organic produce and so we set about cutting back the brush and alders that were furiously taking over the land and we now grow all of our vegetables and soft fruit using a raised bed system.

The large rocks help to regulate the temperature at night and enable us to grow fresh greens all winter.

Our garden has 20 raised beds, giving a total of 1200 sq.ft. for growing vegetables and we also added a greenhouse to extend the season. We were fortunate to have an area with the remains of a  stone basement from a former farm building which we incorporated into the greenhouse to provide an effective heat sink; the huge stones, combined with large barrels of water, help moderate the temperatures.

Our greenhouse is covered with only one layer of plastic, yet during the winter, the internal temperature of the greenhouse rarely drops below -4 Celsius. In order to have fresh greens during the winter, we cover our crops with a second layer of plastic in the form of a poly-tunnel. In addition to the vegetable beds, we have added rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, black currants, red currants, grapes, and gooseberries. In the orchard, we have apples, pears, and plums.

Silver Laced Wyandotte Rooster
A good Rooster helps to protect the flock.

Our first experience with livestock was to keep hens, first for eggs and then for meat – probably the easiest livestock for beginners.

Silver laced Wyandotte hen
We chose to keep Silver Laced Wyandottes – a dual purpose breed suitable for egg laying and meat production.

I have always loved pigs & knew that once we had our own land it was inevitable that we would soon have some.

It was decided that we would keep a Heritage Breed and so in April 2010 we purchased three Registered Berkshire pigs for breeding.

berkshire pigs raised on pasture
Our three Berkshire pigs.

We chose the breed for its hardiness and suitability to living outdoors as we did not want to confine our animals but would rather have the pleasure of watching them enjoy their life in open woodland and pasture.

So good are they at foraging and rooting in the dirt, they were used to prepare our vegetable gardens by running them over the area to plough and fertilize the ground.

Our pigs have access to pasture all year and will happily root through the snow to get to the dirt below.

Of the original five pigs, we kept one boar & two gilts for breeding purposes and so in March 2011, we found ourselves with 16 piglets in the kitchen that had been rejected by their mothers!

Fortunately, they were in the house for only 24 hours before we coaxed the mothers to take them back.

Berkshire piglets suckling from sow
There’s nothing much cuter than baby piglets.


It soon became apparent that if we were to continue with our new pig venture, our small barn would not be adequate and so it was extended to accommodate three pens. As with most projects, it took longer than expected and we just managed to get the roof on two days before the second batch of piglets were born!

Honey bee on dandelion with pollen sac
Bees play are an integral part of our homestead.

2011 saw the arrival of our first bee hive and bees from our beekeeping friends at Bello Uccello. Since then we have had a lot of pleasure learning about these fascinating creatures, not to mention, the most amazing honey!

Rayburn cookstove with water jacket
Our Rayburn heats the house while providing us with hot water and a cook stove.

On the subject of eco-projects, we installed a Rayburn cookstove into our home, to which we added a water jacket. The stove heats our house, cooks our meals for ten months of the year and gives as much hot water (sometimes more) that a family of four can use. For hot water during the warmer summer months, our roof boasts a solar panel.

Bandsaw Mill
A great tool for a sustainable homestead!

We are fortunate to have a woodlot from which we can cut firewood in a sustainable manner. Since purchasing a wood mill, we are able to mill building lumber needed for future projects. Lumber is also selected from the woodlot for John’s Windsor Chair business.

So what’s next?

  • Bio Diesel
  • Wind Turbine
  • Dairy Animal
  • Root Cellar

And more….

Come back often.

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22 thoughts on “The Story so Far…

  1. Our family is moving to Clementsvale this November to try country living. Reading your blog helps calm my nerves a little.

    1. Thanks for reading my blog. It’s always good to hear from people that are interested in country living, hopefully we’ll meet you and your family later in the year. Good luck in your move to Clementsvale.

  2. Hi there,
    We received a “like” from your blog and so I decided to have a look. I could relate to your posts immediately. We also have two boys and they are a large part of the reason we are trying to be self-sustaining. It’s encouraging to read of another family working hard and enjoying the land. Thanks for checking our blog out. Maybe one of these days I will get another post up!
    Tracy, Be True Farm.

  3. Those pigs look truly wonderful; now that we’ve jumped in with chickens (for eggs), it’s whetting my appetite for more livestock! Great to have discovered your blog.

  4. Hi, lovely stuff and sounds similar in some ways to our small farm in Bedfordshire, UK. You’ve gone into more livestock than us though. I’ve got a strong desire to keep pigs and hens here, in addition to our cattle. But that will require some changes – more risks and giving up a proper part-time job. A hard one with 2 teenage girls to keep in phones and clothes…
    Good luck with it all.

  5. Hi Jane! I saw that you visited our fledgling site, and I thought I’d stop by your place and see what you’re all about. I love this blog; so unique and interesting! I’m so happy that you’re sharing what I’m sure has been an eye-opening life experience so far. I love your chickens! A dear friend of mine received 5 chickens for Christmas last year and she treats them like her pets; so adorable and sweet. Best of luck on the farm, and please keep me updated if you end up trying out our Parmesan and Black Pepper Biscotti for you and your family!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Raising and growing most of our food has certainly has been a steep learning curve which has been challenging at times but rewarding at the same time. I certainly will be trying the savory biscotti – I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  6. Hi Jane. Thanks for stopping by. I love your blog and that you are from NS. I saw that you have chickens as well. How do you find the Silver Laced Wyandottes for laying? Our hens are getting older and haven’t been as productive. We have Australorps, Easter-Eggers and a Barred Rock. We hatched them from eggs.

    1. Hi Lisa, Our hens are also getting older and are not laying much anymore. I’m thinking of replacing them with Barred Rocks. We’ve had two wyandotte roosters and they were both rough with the hens, we replaced them with a Barred Rock and the hens love him! He is so kind, and looks after them well.

  7. Hi Jane, Love your blog which I found via Pete’s, where you are now selling your pork. I will be checking it out next time I am in the Bedford Store. I am also interested in a Rayburn and was wondering where in NS you got yours from? I am wanting one that heats the water too. I have kept chickens and have found that the Buff Orpingtons are a very easy breed to keep. Have a good Christmas, Dhyan

    1. Hi Dhyan, I hope you enjoy the pork – customers are always welcome to visit us at the farm to see the way in which we raise our animals, so if you are ever in the Bear River area, please call in.
      The rayburn is a very efficient way to heat your home; we cook on it every day, heat our water and we have just fitted a radiator to try and use some of the excess heat! You can purchase one from Home Hardware, it’s imported from England by Heartland Appliances and sold under the name of Artisan Wood Cookstove.
      Merry Christmas,

  8. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog which has led me to yours. I have really enjoyed reading about your journey and admire the hard work and dedication you have put into the farm. I look forward to the next instalment!

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