The Story So Far

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

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.

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 thirty acres.

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.

winter gardening

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

Since then our garden has expanded to about 1/4 acre of growing area and we have 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 was incorporated into the greenhouse to give a heat sink, the huge stones combined with large barrels of water, help moderate the temperatures. Our greenhouse is covered with 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 then cover our crops with a second layer of plastic in the form of a poly-tunnel.

silver laced wyandotte rooster

A good Rooster helps to protect the flock.

Our first experience with livestock was to keep hens for eggs and 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 should have some.

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

berkshire pigs

Our three Berkshire pigs.

The breed was chosen for it’s 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.

berkshire pigs in winter

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

So good are they at foraging and rooting in the dirt, they now form part of the annual cycle of tilling and fertilizing our vegetable gardens.

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!

berkshire piglets suckling from sow

There’s nothing much cuter than day old pigs curled up beside mum!

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

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 lot of piglets were born!



2011 saw the arrival of our first bee hive and bees from our bee keeping friends at Bello Uccello. I am excited to see how they survive their first winter and I know that I will get a lot of pleasure learning about these fascinating creatures in the months ahead.

rayburn cookstove

Our Rayburn provides us with heat, hot water and cooking.

On the subject of eco-projects, we have installed a Rayburn cookstove into our home, to which we recently 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.

We are fortunate to have a woodlot from which we can cut firewood in a sustainable manner and with the purchase of a wood mill last summer,  also provides us with any building lumber needed for future projects. So what’s next?

bandsaw mill

A great tool!

  • Bio Diesel
  • Wind Turbine
  • Dairy Animal
  • Root Cellar
And more….
Come back often!

About Jane Fowler

We are working towards a sustainable lifestyle, homeschooling our children, growing all our own food and creating art. Join us in our journey, learning with us along the way.
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8 Responses to The Story So Far

  1. great opening Blog ,congrats Jane and I look forward to seeing all the new
    developments on a piece of land that I have had some attachment to over
    the years.I am really glad that you and your family decided on it for your home…..all the best Rob


  2. Flora says:

    What a wonderful blog! I love your piggies and hens and you both are fabulous examples for the rest of us about how to small scale farm (if 20 pigs are small scale…ha ha) and be self sufficient.
    I’d like to read more about your greenhouse. do you think it helps to have it recessed like that. Would that help those of us who don’t have a stone foundation to work with?


    • Jane says:

      Thanks Flora. Our greenhouse is on a level piece of land and is not recessed into the ground. The granite boulders are above ground and banked up on the outside with earth and are only on two walls of the greenhouse – the north and east sides. If you don’t have suitable boulders to build the walls with you could use smaller stones or other material that absorbs the heat from the sun. If we build another greenhouse we might use earth rammed tyres.


  3. Flora says:

    Jane, are there still greens growing in your greenhouse right now?


    • Jane says:

      I have been picking greens all winter and had a dozen beautiful, sweet red peppers a week before christmas! During Jan and Feb I can only pick a small amount of greens, because it stops regrowing. Now that the days are getting longer it will start regrowing after I pick it, but it is starting to come to an end so I shall be reseeding with spinach and salad greens next week.


  4. I love what you have set up and how it is progressing! Amazing!


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