When the Land calls

Bridgette asks:

This question again has to do with your land because as you know I am obsessed with living on the land one day  - when you found the land how did you know that was the place. Or did you?



I guess this is The History of Jen Week (did an Introduction post over on instagram) and given where I live really informs my work, it probably is pertinent. In order to answer Bri's question fully however, a bit of backstory may be in order.


I am not a native Nova Scotian.

My parents moved out of my home province of Quebec in the late 70s with the institution of Bills 22 & 101 making Quebec an all French province.

They moved to Shelburne, NS, where I met Tom.

We moved to Toronto for 10 years while he did his corporate thing and I had babies.

I was getting into the idea of homesteading and had already started to move our 10 acres from "country estate" to working farmette.

And then Tom wanted to move back. Ostensibly so our 2 boys could know their grandparents. But also, I think, he just missed the lower key lifestyle.

When we started looking...this was in the late 80s...no internet!...it wasn't quite as convenient as it is now (hello! ViewPoint!). Luckily my parents were on board and kept an eye out for likely properties. 

Our list of "haves" was pretty modest:

  1. Somewhere between Halifax and Shelburne. The idea being if Tom had to work in the city, it wouldn't be TOO far and we weren't in our parents (his lived in the same town as mine) back pockets. (not to mention Shelburne is NOT farmland. (hello! Granite Village. I kid you not!)
  2. 20 acres (ish).
  3. Liveable house. Workable outbuildings.

They rounded up a bunch of properties and in November 1989 we flew in to do a whirlwind tour.
A couple of things we'd found while looking, is that "country estate" properties - between 5 and 25 acres - didn't exist in Nova Scotia then. They were either 2 acre building lots OR 150+acres. (Land grants were doled out in the 1800s in 150acre increments) We never specified water frontage and frankly, had we do it over again, that'd probably be Criteria #4. There are 1000s of lakes and rivers in Nova Scotia. Not to mention oceanfront.  Finding waterfrontage would not have been a hardship back then. But I digress.

We looked at 4 promising properties...others had been visited and knocked off the list by my parents.

The first 3 were smaller acreages. One was across from the ocean and a more gentrified area. The real estate agent felt cows and horses and chickens might not go over very well. One had a renovated house but no barn. Another had a small barn, older home in good nic but was a good 40 minute drive from the highway that linked Halifax and Shelburne.

The final one was Meadowood. It was an estate sale and had not been lived in for 2 or 3 years. The driveway was more a path up a 300 meter (1000feet) hill. The fields were overgrown. The house was old and a combination of particle board, green shag carpet and orange medallion wallpaper. Parts of the barn floor had fallen through and the center bay was filled with loose hay and (we didn't know at the time) farm implements. The cattle stanchions were FILLED with stuff. The shed floor was rotten and listing downhill as was the attached chicken coop. Both were filled to brim with STUFF. But as we walked to the top of the hill behind the house that overlooked Wentzell Lake, surrounded by (albeit neglected) fields with 120ish acres of woodland, I knew, this was it. We put an offer in and owned it within a week!


How did I know?

It felt like home. It was welcoming. It had more than our criteria. It had history. And it spoke to me. This. Now. Yours. 

Not really helpful as a "this is how you find a rural property" tutorial. Other places would certainly have been less work. Maybe other folks can be super practical and make a property work with their head and let the heart catch up. Maybe. All I know is that this property entranced my heart, let my feet grow deep into the earth and became a part of me.

It was a difficult transition from there to here, our new house by the lake. Those roots had grown strong and deep. Even though in my heart, I knew, we needed a change. Thankfully our son and daughter-in-law took  it over and, I think, love it as much as we did.  I would not have been able to stay in the same area had it not remained in the family.

I can not tell you how deeply satisfying it is to live on a piece of land that you know like the back of your hand. It becomes a friend. A living, breathing entity that has its own life, its own story that you can share in shaping and growing and stewarding. Everyone should be able to experience that at least one in their life!

4 comments

  1. So interesting Jen and beautifully written ! and that first photo is a stunner.

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    1. Thanks Susan!That's valerian in front of a sea of goutweed! Invasive BUT pretty. 😊

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  2. I wonder if instantly knowing your place, your home is universal? I felt that way when I found my place. Leaving it after 25 years has been more devastating than expected. I still wake from dreams having been home only to find myself in a strange place. Time may lessen the blow and perhaps I'll feel grounded again. I'm so glad your kids took the homeplace...

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    1. I'm sorry its been such a tough transition for you Catherine. I hope you'll feel ease soon! 💕

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