Notes from 2 years in Nova Scotia
thank you for taking the time to post
In automn we spent 3 weeks on the orchard retreat property, which we have been developing from a distance since 2013. Observations (continued):
60) There was ZERO wild apple harvest this year. The June frost killed all. From our plantings, we did our usual automn routine around the fruit trees. The first step is to apply a mist of Agri-Fos to the leaves and stems. The Agri-Fos descends to the roots and protects them from fungal diseases in wet soil. The second step is to remove vegetation around the trees. The third is to apply a mix of lime, humic acid and phosphor around the trees. The fourth is to identify branches that need to be trained and to tie them to the cage.
61) We also did the routine weeding around the berry bushes and the hazelnuts. Several of the hazelnuts did get chewed down by the rabbits, but most did not. In contrast to the fruit and nut trees, we don’t protect the hazelnuts with individual cages. We do protect them with white spiral wrap, but they first need to get to a minimum size before that can be done. The currants are great. They need no protection. I have seen no rabbit damage on any of them and I have had some for years. Also, they are easy to propagate by oneself and they actually bear almost immediately!
62) We have replaced the mulberry that didn‘t survive its first winter last year, with a new one. The second one, the one that did survive winter, looks and grows fine.
63) We are happy with the new root cellar that we had put in during summer and that is underneath the new solar hut. It should last a 100 years. It‘s generous family size (20 square metres in area and 7 feet high) and really shouldn‘t freeze in winter. It‘s entirely underground. As to the construction, the footings are 2 feet wide. On that rest „fox blocks“ (styrofoam) that is filled with concrete. There is a perimeter drain and an additional floor drain at the inside of the cellar. The whole thing was bubble wrabbed and backfilled with quality fill, a slate-based material. On the outflows of the drain, we put in crimpled up chicken wire, to keep rodents away. The floor of the cellar is raw earth with a layer of pebbles on top. There are two ventilation pipes. The ceiling of the cellar is also the floor of the floor of the solar hut, however, there are rigid insulation boards on the lower side. There is an access hatch, which we conceil and makes the root cellar also a secret room that we think would escape the attention of a burglar. From the outside, there is no sign that there is a root cellar underneath the solar hut.
64) We had joined the Woodlot Owner‘s Association of Nova Scotia. We own about 60 hectares or so of mixed woodland. A real benefit of the association is that a forest professional walks the land with you and writes a detailed report about sound ecological management. The individual who walked with us made it a total pleasure walking our own forest. It took 3 hours of walking. He was a fountain of knowledge. The best part, for us, is that he is also a one-stop shop for forest management. It is normal that a forest has different stages of development in growth and sound ecological management can include selective cuttings of low quality softwoods or overmature hardwoods, or overdense growth, to give breathing space to species that one might want to encourage (for us, that‘s the hemlock, yellow birch, maple, and other species-rich composition of the Acadian forest). He‘ll send us a business proposal about the selected cuttings. The low quality wood will no doubt feed the Port Hawskbury BioFuel Power Plant) and the overmature hardwoods are certainly veneer quality. The 300 year old yellow birch will all remain as it would be a sin to cut any of those down. We get a „stumpage fee“ minus their costs. We are not interested in getting cash, and it would even be taxable. Where our real interest lies is that there will be forest roads cut into the property. Those forestry roads open up the property and make it accessible to us. I have told the gentleman that we wish to see long and well built forest roads in the property that will stand up to time, that means elevated and compacted. If this is done right, the back forest gains tremendous value to us, to the Acadian forest, to the forest companies, and to the Woodowner‘s Association. A true win-win-win-win.
65) We are planning for an outdoor kitchen based around a wood cookstove. Part of our operations involves a lot of boiling down maple sap and fruit juices (to make concentrates and apple butter). On kijiji, we found a nice old Elmira stove that just fits our purpose, is beautiful at the same time, and was available inexpensively within a 90 minute drive. So we hooked up the trailer and it now sits in our new wood shed, until we have a better plan for the outdoor kitchen.
66) We also negotiate with the company right now on the topic of solar installation. We have no ambition to become an off-grid family. We‘ll always be on-grid and use solar as supplementary. The idea is that the solar feeds selected circuits in our electrical box by the pull of a switch. That would be for the water pump, the lights, the electrical outlets, the fridge and the washing machine. The power hogs won‘t be connected to solar, like the water heater, the electric baseboards, the stove. For energy storage, we have decided to go with the smallest possible lithium ion battery bank and expand to additional batteries when lithium ion batteries become cheaper. But lithium ion we go from the start. Lithium Ion is superior in just about every aspect — they are light weight and smaller, maintenance free, long lived, self-discharge little under both hot and cold, and can be completely discharged with no ill effect, even when the battery is frozen. With solar, we want a system that serves us, rather than us serving the solar system. The traditional lead acid systems are by no means maintenance free and require ongoing monitoring. The traditional lead acid batteries discharge more when stored cold and are more apt to be damaged when left at a low state of charge in an unheated hut. They require enough monitoring that one must actually think about one’s solar system on an ongoing basis. We don‘t like any of that. We don‘t want to think about our solar system. It‘s install it, and forget it and use it, with no maintenance. Lithium ion offers that. And once installed, it will be good for 15+ years and no need to touch any component. The one disadvantage of lithium ion is that one must dramatically reduce the charge current when charging the battery when the temperature is below 0 C. Our solution is to simply not charge the battery when it‘s below freezing. In practice and for ease of management, it makes sense to just use grid power in winter, and keep the batteries fully charged and ready to use in case the power goes out. That, and to keep the batteries in an overdimensioned box with winter insulation and switch the charge to „on“ on sunny warm winter days.
66) I spent extra time with the chainsaw, clearing additional areas.
67) Note on food storage. I have been making soups with our split peas that we bought from 2011. They retain a light crunch no matter for how long they are cooked. I have good digestion and it doesn‘t bother my stomach.
Our blog, continued.
68) After a 6 months absence from the property, we came for a two week visit in May. Everything was in order. A neighbour keeps a friendly eye on it. It shows again that a light touch hobby fruit farm with long absences remains feasible for us.
69) The most pleasant surprise was the 80 grapes we planted in 2016 from cuttings. There were finally knosps on the branches from last year. That is a major development because it shows patience has paid off and the grapes are finally taking. Both in 2017 and 2018 the grapes had survived but shoots only came from the bottom.
70) A large spruce has fallen in a winter storm and it was rotten inside. Luckily it fell in the best possible way and did not damage. There are several others of same age and we have hired a local guy to push them over with the raised shovel of a dozer.
71) We have planted additional fruit: 15 highbush blueberry, 15 haskap, 10 sea buckthorn, 5 plum trees. The plum trees are tiny (just sticks) at this point.
72) The root cellar we added last year passed the winter test. The temperature inside did not fall below zero. We are very happy about that addition. We have gained 20 square metres of full-height cold storage and it also also serves as a secret room which cannot be seen nor guessed from the outside.
73) We gain a more realistic understanding of what the property can do for us and what it cannot. We have developed it for 6 years and yet for all our efforts, we have yet little harvest to show. There are numerous fruit growing, but the apple trees, the nut trees, the hazelnuts, the haskap, the currants, the mulberries, the grapes, etc. grow slowly and have thus far either no or a low harvest. The addition of lime and fertiliser makes a substantial and visible difference. We expect rising harvest levels from now on, and for many years to come, leading to ever more substantial harvests. That's for the fruit. Our little experiments growing grains failed because they either grew poorly or were eaten by the rabbits. That said, fava beans are our most promising non-fruit food crop. They grow tall, are less weeded out, and untouched by wildlife.
74) We have finally understood the importance of growing food crops in long rows with proper spacing to run a Stihl cultivator between the rows to handle weeds. Hand weeding is inefficient and exhausting and we minimise it.
75) Construction continues on the property. We plan to add an outdoor kitchen this year. It's a fancy name but is meant as a covered outdoor area with a wood stove in it that can be used to boil down fruit juices and maple sap. In a SHTF scenario, wild apples will be a major food source. The ability to boil down hundreds of kilograms into apple butter or fruit juice concentrate becomes a must.
76) We return to the property for a full six week stay this summer. We love our time there and has added a lot ot meaning to our lives!
Very nice sounding setup and best yet, you enjoy the adventure.all the best
Our blog, continued.
77) We spent six weeks on our property in summer and two weeks in automn. The first we noticed in the summer was that the root cellar, which we had built last year, was about 12 degrees and there was excessive moisture. All metal containers had condensation on them. This was an unwelcome surprise, particularly the root cellar is well built and has two ventilation pipes. Thus, we suspect, other people with root cellars in Nova Scotia probably have similar moisture issues. We noticed that when we left the trap door open in the night, the moisture dropped and condensation disappeared. Thus, if we were living on the property full-time, opening the trap door during night time in the warmest days of the summer is an adequate solution. Since we do not live there, the solution will be to run a dehumidifier. This actually is not burdensome. Since the root cellar is the basement of the solar shed, it is uncomplicated to connect an electric outlet. We have bought a dehumidifier that consumes only 380 Watts and is capable of removing 15 litres of water from the air, per day. By the design of the root cellar, there is a floor drain on the earthen/pebble floor, so directing the water from the dehumidifier to the outside is easy. That said, we have not run the dehumidifier yet. We will do so next year. When we arrived in automn, the temperature in the root cellar was 10 degrees and there were no moisture issues.
78) The solar system was installed in the summer and performs marvellously. We are glad we went with Lithium Ion. It is entirely maintenance free and should be good for 15+ years. On sunny days in the summer, the system generates multiple times the amount of electricity that we use. On cloudy days, the system still generates more than we use. In automn on a cloudy day, the system generates about the same amount we use. Our electricity use is low. When we were there in automn, little electricity was used. We cooked on the wood stove most of the time and did not need the fridge, as the root cellar was cool enough for keeping butter, cheese and vegetables. We used power for lights, the water pump and to run the hot water heater around 30 minutes a day. -- That said, we made a mistake with the solar system. The system was installed without provincial inspection and thus we are not allowed to use net metering, even though the system has that functionality. That will be rectified next year. We are actually eligible for a provincial incentivce discount. For another $5,000 out of pocket expense, the solar company will install another nine solar panels (for a total of 21, taking the full roof space of 30 square metres), and all related paperwork. If we lived there on time, I am sure that we would receive a cheque from the power company most, if not every, month of the year. Since we do not live there, we expect the solar system to reduce the yearly power bill to zero, despite the electric heating in our absence.
79) After a spruce tree fell last winter, and missed our structures by luck, we had several others removed. This was done through local contacts by a guy with a dozer. We had never seen a dozer used to remove trees and it was impressive work how he used the long-armed thumb of the dozer to reach around trunks and rip. After he was finished, he removed the trunks and essentially plowed the ground. Thereby we gained 110 square metres of flat dry land that we fenced in and use as a garden area. We spread lime, phosphorous and humic acid on that land to prepare it for plantings next season. We planted daikon radishes to also help prepare the soil. Our prior garden area was 40 square metres and so we now have 150 square metres to grow vegetables.
80) Hurricane Dorian uprooted a large wild apple tree close to the house, and split the trunk of another in half. This gave me the chance to re-evaluate the area where these trees grow. Initially I valued these wild apple trees as a potential food source. But over the years I have come to appreciate that there are countless wild apple trees in the area and there is no solid reason to keep the ones that are close to the house, especially because the land that they grow on is flat land with good dry soil. We thus removed a numer of these trees, work which will continue next spring. Once done, we'll get the guy with the dozer over to remove the roots. Thereby we'll gain about 500-700 square metres of garden area, which we wish to use to finally start growing grains like rye and wheat.
81) Dry flat land definitely is to be valued on our property. Since he was already here, we put the guy with the dozer to work to remove alders in a low lying area, about 500 square metres, and later put daikon radishes and cereal rye. The radishes thrived but the cereal rye died. The soil is way too wet. We plan next season to plant wet soil resistant fruit on that land, particularly haskap. Haskap does not prefer wet soil, but from what we read, it will grow on it.
82) The haskap we planted in 2013 has disappointingly little harvests. From what we read, haskap does marvellously in cold areas like the Saguanay region in Quebec, but not so in warm regions such as Nova Scotia. The problem is that the flowers open during the first warm spring days, before pollinators come out. Bees are only active at 10 degrees or warmer. Queen bumble bees are out at 0 degrees and visit 2000 flowers a day, but there are only that many of those around. New varieties of Haskap have been developped that open 3 weeks later than the standard varieties. We plan to plant two dozen of these new varieties next spring in the wet soil and see how they do. If they do well, we will plant many more.
83) We are now also bee keepers. It is necessary in Nova Scotia to obtain a (free) annual license. A local friend used to keep bees, until a black bear put an end to his hive. He approached us already a few years ago that he'd be happy to start bees again on our property and guide us into it. With the help of his contacts, we obtained a cluster of bees in July and placed them in a "Warre" type bee hive. The peculiarity of this type of hive is that bees build their own comb, and is a bee-friendly way of starting out. We are initially not interested in harvesting honey. We just like to keep bees, learn about them and succed in having them survive. They are surprisingly docile. I opened the hive numerous time to feed them sugar water. The sugar water helped them build the comb, since we started the cluster relatively late. While I wore a bee suit, none was necessary. To keep bees, very little effort is actually required. What is absolutely needed is to insulate the hive for the winter, and apparently it is also necessary to treat them for a parasite called virola mites. That aside, no work is required. That said, we need to better inform ourselves what is to be done next year when the hive is ready to swarm and divide in two. My understanding is that if you are willing to keep the hive at the same size rather than growing it, you do not have to worry about swarming. However, we already bought a second hive and are ready to install it in a way that invites the swarming bees to take up a new home. If we come to a stage to want to harvest honey, apparently one can harvest 10kg+ per hive per year.
84) In our garden, we continue to find that fava beans and garlic are easy crops to grow. After all, we are not there much to remove weeds. Favas grow thick long stalks and you get 20-50 beans for each bean planted. We harvested about 2kg of fava beans from a 20 square metre plot. The harvest would have been higher if we had been there two weeks earlier. Many of the pods had already opened, and the beans fallen out. Due to the wet automn, the beans we harvested had in many cases already sprouted. One lesson we learned is that in future years, we will keep the beans in their shells, as they will dry faster and better that way. It paid that we planted the favas in properly spaced rows (about 40 cm apart), which allows for a Stihl cultivator tool to efficiently weed between them. We plan to grow a full 100 square metres of favas next spring. We also harvested 1kg of garlic in summer, and planted all that in automn (taking about 20 square metres).
85) Grapes are mixed story. We planted 80 of them in 2016 and in the 2017 and 2018 season they died back and only emerged from the ground. In 2019, many finally had surviving small trunks, from which new growth occurred. A few had actually grapes this year. That said, the grapes were small and immature. Spring, however, had arrived late. Existing mature grapes on the property also produced inedible fruit. Not enough warmth and sun this year.
86) The disadvantage of our property is that it is in a frost pocket. Cold air falls from the surrounding hills and settles in the river valley, where we are. Thus we also get frost earlier than neighbours on the hill sides. The advantage of our property is that it gets sun all day long and more so than neighbours on the same hill sides.
87) Six years into our adventure, we like the property more and more. It will be a lovely retirement location and the cost of maintaing and living there continue to fall, which is what you want from a homestead. It is said that the difference between a house and homestead is that a home is a taker, but a homestead is a giver. When the time comes for us to live there permanently, costs will be very low and mostly limited to the property tax, which is about $1,000 a year. Water bills are zero (our own well), electricity bills will be zero and actually pay us (our solar system with net billing), heating bills are zero (our firewood), and food bills reduced by own production. The vision for the next two years is that we'll have 850 square metres of garden areas for grains and vegetables, plus numerous fruit trees and fruit bushes and bee hives. It feels like God's country.
88) Note on food storage. 10 year old tuna cans, 9 year old olive oil, 8 year old split peas, 7 year old chocolate, 6 year old almonds, etc. are fine. Nothing has ever gone bad on us, except hazelnuts (which went rancid after 3 years or so).
89) Part of our property is very wet land. Rarely is there standing water, but the water table is just a few centimetres below the ground for all but mid summer. We plan to grow special crops on these, such as highbush cranberry. In the summer, I planted cereal rye and daikon radish seed. The cereal rye died, but the daikon radishes thrived. When we were there in automn, we collected about 15 kg of them, dried them on the wood stove and groun d them to a powder. The end product was about one kg. We plan to use it like horseradish.
Our blog, continued:
90) Vehicle choice. Our trusty 17 year old sedan is no longer dependable for long distances and less so, pulling a trailer. We never had anything resembling a "bug out vehicle" but since we needed a new vehicle, we put a lot of thought into making a good choice.
Our criteria were: (a) supreme dependability, (b) high ground clearance, (c) a common vehicle that is inconspicuous, (d) 4x4, (e) high payload, (f) can sleep in the vehicle flat, (g) can tow a utility trailer over long distances going and down, (h) nothing bigger than mid-size so that it is not cumbersome in the big city where we live.
Initially, we were set on getting a Diesel. Diesel means a purring motor at low revolutions that drives a 1000km+ before needing to see a gas station. Also Diesel is much safer to store than gasoline and it also doesn't go stale as fast.
After weeks of research, we found that there is not a single Diesel vehicle -- not one -- that is reliable. They either have intrinsic and notorious dependability issues that are specific to the make and model (e.g., the Jeep GC Diesel), or are made undependable by government regulations that when the vehicle's internal computer thinks that the complicated emissions equipment (DPF, ad-blu) systems spits out undesirable fumes, the vehicle gives you a warning that in 100km or so, it'll go into "limp mode" and drive at walking speed until you get the issue fixed! Imagine that -- you are on a lonely stretch of dirt road in New Brunswick on a Friday night and your vehicle goes into limp mode. Cross that out. Also reading forums of Diesel vehicles (including the Chevy Colorado mid-sized pickup truck), you find endless horror stories. Next.
After we researched the Diesels and excluded them (which took a few weeks of concentrated evenings spent reading Internet forums), and settled on having to go with a gasoline-powered vehicle, it was surprisingly quick (meaning .... hmm another 10 days on the Internet or so) that we homed in on the Toyota 4Runner.
It clicked all the boxes mentioned above. First, it is supremely dependable and solidly built with serious capabilities. If you wished to do the TransAmerican Highway, which runs from the Yukon to the south tip of Argentina, much of it on endless and deeply-rutted potholed or washed out roads, this is the vehicle you want. Second, it is common enough to be inconspicuous. Third, it has a 700kg payload (and more on a pinch). Fourth, yes, one can sleep in the vehicle flat.
The one disadvantage of the 4Runner is mediocre fuel economy. Going up and down hills on a country road takes about 12.5l/100km. The tank fits 87 litres, so the range is 700km. It's about 1500km on the direct route from our city home to our retreat, but with all that can happen in a true scenario, we calculate with 2000km. That would take 250 litres of fuel.
So starting with a full tank, we need 160 litres additional fuel to comfortably get to the retreat. That's eight 20-litre jerry cans. It's considered dangerous to travel with fuel cans in the vehicle. Some fumes always escape and a spark could cause an explosion. Plus, we need the space inside the vehicle. We have tested two options and they are both satisfactory. We got ourselves a hitch basket that comfortably holds seven jerry cans. One note, gasoline has only 3/4 the density and weight of water. Thus, 140 litres of gas weigh 105 kg (plus the weight of the cans). Our specific hitch basket sits close to the vehicle and is quite inconspicuous. Any fuel cans we carry are inside the zipped bag that came with the hitch basket. Thus, the setup is quite inconspicuous. One worry was that hot fumes from the exhaust pipe of the 4Runner could heat up the fuel cans and leading to a potentially very dangerous situation. Indeed, there are reports on the Net of items melting on hitch baskets. We overcame this problem by installing a heat shield inside the hitch basket. We have tested the setup and it works perfectly.
A second method to carry items, including fuel cans, outside the vehicle is on a roof rack. We have installed an after-market roof rack on the 4Runner that allows us to carry 150kg of weight on the roof. Fuel cans on the roof rack might sound conspicuous, but actually, that's not necessarily so. We have installed a black collapsable plastic basket, just a touch larger than the fuel can, on the roof rack. It catches almost no attention when unused and lying flat, and does not particularly catch the eye when folded up and having a jerry can laying on its side inside the basket. Having six baskets simulatenously up might cathc more attention, however. We prefer the hitch basket solution.
We don't plan to modify the vehicle in any other way, except that we will install proper skid plates underneath the vehicle, to give us that extra confidence to take the dirt roads. Also, we'll eventually get a different set of summer and winter tires.
I don’t want to hijack your thread (which is really cool BTW), but as I contemplate getting a 4Runner (downsizing from a Suburban), I certainly would appreciate knowing more about the hitch basket and roof rack system you installed. Would you mind sharing names and maybe a picture or 2, either here or via PM?
Hello! We went with an LFD Off-road aluminum roof rack. For the hitch basket, we picked the Erickson 07496. It sits reasonably close to the rear bumper and is long but narrow, plus has a built in cage, thus is perfect for fuel cans.
We ordered the hitch basket from amazon.com and the lfd roof rack right from the manufacturer. We had both shipped to a UPS Store just south of the border, which will hold any item for US$5. At Canada Customs, we declared them, paid the HST, and that was it.
May i suggest a winch. either permanently mounted on the front Or as i have for my Yukon XL, a portable unit that quickly connects to cigarette outlets or battery, has a nice remote control. nice thing is that you can use for the front or rear. sometimes going forward is the best option!.
carry one for the skidoo as well as one for the ATV ( in addition to the one mounted on the front, even if you have one for the front, the "winch in a bag" is a great backup or for those rearward pulls.
don't forget a couple of good nylon pull straps, rope, chain or metal cable so you have more then thirty meters of pull length. Nylon is best for weight and ease of use. a couple of big metal shackles are also good to have.
Hi Clarence, we do have a winch. It's the Wyeth-Scott manual winch that can pull 12,000 lbs, https://www.wyeth-scott.com/ We prefer this winch as we can mount it front, back, at any angle and it weighs only 12kg.
We also completed an install of a full range of RCI skid plates, which has added a (net) 40kg to the vehicle. We measured the minimum ground clearance, skid plates installed, at 17.2 cm. I also found out over time, with measurements and reading forums, that automotive manufacturers mislead with their published ground clearance numbers. They seem never be measured at the lowest point. Toyota advertises 24.4 cm ground clearance for the 4Runner, but in reality it is less. That's also true for other manufacturers. The only way for you to know actual minimum ground clearance is to get dirty, lay down beside the vehicle, identify the lowest spot, and get your measuring tape out.
So, for permanent installs, we have added 65kg weight to the 4Runner (roof rack, skid plates, consule safe).
There is a removable and lockable steel box in the trunk with a 120 litre capacity. The box weighs 25kg and there's 30kg of various objects in there (including the winch, recovery gear, etc.). For recovery gear, we also have got two waffle boards that are strong enough to be used as bridges. They came in 4 feet lengths. We do not want to mount them longside onto our roof, as this takes too much space. Instead, we measured what would fit across the roof rack, and it is exactly 100cm. We'll cut both waffle boards to that size, and put them onto the roof rack that way, and it is also quite inconspicuous. They'll add 15kg to the roof.
Vehicle weight is a key consideration for us. The advertised payload for our 4Runner (GVWR - curb weight) = 675kg. Deduct the 65kg permanently added, leaves 610kg. Take out the steel box with its contents, and the waffle boards on the roof, leaves 540kg. My wife, child and I together weigh 180kg, which leaves 360kg. Our hitch basket weighs 20kg, leaves 340kg. For fuel autonomy, we need 200 litres to get there, and plan for the capacity to carry extra: 90 litres in the tank plus 220 litres in jerry cans. 7 jerry cans in the hitch basket, and 4 on the roof rack. 220 litres of fuel weigh 165kg, plus the weight of the cans, so 200kg total. Leaves 140kg remaining payload on the 4Runner. That is a comfortable margin for other items, and obviously the weight of the fuel drops with every km driven.
To allow for worry free use of the hitch basket, we changed the direction of the exhaust pipe. The 4Runner comes with a straight exhaust, which blows hot gases right towards your hitch basket. We have changed the piping to a side pointing exhaust.
91) Coronavirus observations. The crisis has shown big holes in our preparedness plan. For one, we are still in the big city rather than on our retreat, even though both my wife and I work from home now and there is no school for our child. We could have easily driven to our retreat beginning of March, self isolated for two weeks, and enjoy life on our property. What has prevented us from doing just that is ... lack of Internet. Internet access is essential for us, unless we abandon our jobs. And Internet access IS possible in our corner of Inverness county, and that at reasonable prices. The www.seasidehighspeed.com company offers Satellite Internet and caters to seasonal residents by obliging them to only pay four months a year. Clearly, we should have had that service installed. But we haven't. We can only pray that the situation normalises so that we can fill this hole in our preparedness without delay.
The interprovincial mobility restrictions are an irritant. To get from our city to our retreat, we have to cross from Ontario to Quebec, from Quebec to New Brunswick and from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia. There are police controlling all three borders, keeping tourists out. Could we cross? YES, because we have done a major thing right in our preparedness plan. From the get-go, we filled out the paper work to have our retreat officially recognised as a registered fruit farm business. At any police checkpoint, we can show our farm registration papers and membership in the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. We are confident that a police officer, seeing those papers, and a big visible bunch of more fruit trees to plant, in the trunk, will let us through, with the stipulation to isolate on our farm for two weeks.
There's two schools of thought of how we would get out there in future scenarios of restricted mobility. One is to take chances, the other one is to avoid them. The main highway is not something we'd consider under any scenario. For the first option, we take the secondary but well paved roads from Ontario into Quebec and from New Brunswick into Nova Scotia. On those, a presence of border guards is much less likely than on the main highway. And in case there were to be a checkpoint and facing the question of why we are not on the main highway, a statement to the effect that we like the small routes, will be fine and won't look out of place. The main border to consider is the Quebec-New Brunswick border. A small border crossing, and my preferred, is at the Baie de Chaleurs. On the Quebec side, right at the bridge, is a police station. On the New Brunswick side, there may or may not be anyone there. It's not that I am truly worried about not getting through. However, if we were to be turned away, it'd be a major hassle, 1000 km from home. To avoid that risk, there is another route that crosses from Quebec into New Brunswick on a dirt road. Chances that there is a border guard are close to zero. BUT .. here is the thing: if by some chance there was an authority and notices my Ontario plate on a forelorn dirt road crossing interprovincial borders during times of a lockdown, that police officer might well conclude we try to sneak through checkpoints, or worse, transport drugs or the like. That could cause a whole host or problems. All in all, I'll stick to option 1 under present circumstances, that is, the secondary but paved roads. I use the round-abouts when the situation really required it, but that is not now.
On family finances, for the last few years or so, we have made periodic cash withdrawals and bought some physical gold coins. We have made that choice for a part of our assets, because physical gold coins are the only liquid asset that carries no counterparty risk. The unavailability of physical gold at current circumstances makes us regret we did not accelerate our cash withdrawals. We hope we can resume when society normalises.
92) I did something stupid and potentially really dangerous. I noticed a tuna can that had a bulging lid and ate it anyway. The smell and taste were fine. I knew instinctively that a bulging lid is a sign of a danger but ignored it. Yes, stupid. I then read up on it, and read about botulism. For three days after, I was scared for symptoms to start. Luckily, nothing bad happened at all. Obviously, any other bulging can in future gets immediately tossed.
I think your pre planning for fruit tree farm is a reallyyyyy! Wise strategic move and yes, sneaking around back roads and getting caught or confronted could likely provoke suspicion. I. Too would stick to the example of fruit trees in the back of the truck. Maybe split up vehicles and on different days as well. Show your grocery supply, trees... and you may be in luck.
Dress down but not to scruffy. Now, have you considered registering your car for Nova Scotia and having plates mailed out to you?
Hi Clarence, having NS plates would be perfect. How would I go about getting those?
Our blog, continued:
93) We have returned from 2+ weeks on our retreat in Nova Scotia to the big city. We had to cross three provincial boundarirites to get there. There were no controls at the Quebec border, however, there was a roadblock entering the Bas-St-Laurent. The officers were very serious and they looked long and hard at our farm registration papers. Then they let us through. These papers made all the difference and I am very glad I set up the retreat as an official farm property. We will strenghten our papers by having our Nova Scotia Apiculture permit handy. In the final analysis, taking care of bees adds an element of urgency that a mere caretaking of fruit trees may not, in a hardened border shutdown.
The New Brunswick border, along the TransCanada, was also tough. We had to promise to drive through the provicine without stopping, except for gas. The officers took our information down, including our cell phone number, with the clear understanding that our movements may be tracked. We gave the number, as pretending to have no cell phone, these days, actually will arouse suspicion that you are not telling the truth. Plus we had no reason not to give it out. Once they have the license plate, the state can figure out your cell phone, if they decide to.
The Nova Scotia border, again along the TransCanada, was actually not tough. They have no authority to turn you back. They took our information and handed us a sheet that required us to isolate for two weeks. Later I heard that the RCMP does random property visits, meant to check on people's keeping of the mandatory quarantine.
Fast forward to our return trip, I made a mistake at the NS-NB border. I took a smaller crossing, not the TransCanada. Arriving at that crossing, the NB officers asked where I was going and I stated, to Ontario. They then directed me to drive on the NS side to the TransCanada and take the main crossing. Somehow I accepted that without question. In hindsight, I should have fought in a smart way to be let through that little crossing, and politely present my solid reasons to taking that crossing. If that situation arises again in the summer, I will take the same small crossing and make my case, politely but firmly. There is no reason to be denied that crossing. In the minds of those officers, the TransCanada is the natural road to Ontario and so why don't we take that. The case is that the small crossing directly connects to Highway 11 which goes along the coast on a flat highway to Campbellton and then into Quebec. One can get through NB in 3.5 hours that way. Taking the TransCanada means taking 500 km of a very hilly expressway and 5 hours in NB. So the smaller crossing is actually in NBs interest to let me through. Plus to tell the officer that we have a full tank of gas and do not need to stop at all, should seal the deal.
94) Our bees did not survive the winter. We do not know why, and neither does our local mentor. We'll re-evaluate and start again in 2021. What we'll do differently is to place the hives with the beekeeper already in May, and pick them up from him in July. Last time, we only placed the bees in the hive in July. It just might not have been enough time for them to build their stocks, or multiply to sufficient numbers, even though we gave them a lot of sugar.
95) We keep having difficulties with mulberry trees. I now think that the error we make is that we do not protect the graft for wintertime. We never protected the graft for apple trees or hazelnuts without problem. But mulberry just might need a protected graft. We'll try in automn. One way to protect the graft is with 3/4 inch pipe insulation.
96) Two of our grafted apple trees probably will die because mice girdled the stems. Clearly, we are losing trees but we do learn. A few years ago we placed the white spirals around the trees to prevent just that problem, but left them for summer. That was a mistake because the moisture causes stem rot. We carefully worked on these trees with the appropriate treatments and none of the trees died. Going forward, we place the spirals in automn and remove them in spring.
97) We have a decent number of grafted apple trees and black walnut trees developing despite our mistakes. Some look excellent, others are rather spindly. Each is permanently protected by a 6 foot wire cage, with a two foot diameter and supported by T-rails. By the way, to get a two foot diameter, roll the horsefence out flat and cut at exactly 2 metre intervals.
98) Our currants, blueberries, haskap, hazelnuts, gooseberries grow well and trouble free. Young hazelnuts definitely need rabbit protection and the white plastic spirals serve that purpose well. The spirals stay on three seasons, from automn through summer, and we remove them for the summer season.
99) We are confident our vinyard will turn out a success. They grow slowly and it'll take several more years to get them to a good size. We had 78 plantings back in 2016. Out of those, 56 have stems and new growth comes from higher up. That's what we want to see. Another eleven come up from the ground and hopefully they will finally start growth from higher up next spring. Another eleven are dead.
100) The garlic we planted looks good. We counted 150 plants. We fertilised them well and removed the weeds before leaving.
101) We did our first plantings on the new 100 m2 garden we cleared last year. We rototilled it and planted mostly fava beans. I expect a modest success. The soil is naturally not fertile and needs lots of lime and, after liming a few times, fertiliser. All we did was a first application of lime and phosphor last automn. We planted the fava beans middle of May and they had not sprouted when we left 2+ weeks later. It was dry during that period and with some temperature extremes, from minus 3 to plus 25. As I write this, Cape Breton is getting a week of cool wet weather. Perfect sprouting conditions for fava beans. We put much expectations into fava beans on our property. They are easy to grow, have a high yield and are resistant to weeds because they grow tall and sturdy. They will become a staple.
102) We also planted 4 pears, 9 apples and 2 shellbark hickory. The hickory is for future generations, they take 40 years for the first crop of nuts. We put much research this winter into rootstocks. We found trees in Western Canada grown on malus fusca rootstock. These is essentially a rootstock of wild fruit trees that grow in wet soil, even soggy soil. We have many such spots on our property and finding a rootstock that supports fruit trees was always a priority for us. We bought, as a first try, 4 grafted apple trees on malus fusca rootstock, and 5 ungrafted malus fusca. We plan to do our own grafts on those. Our research shows that malus fusca is at its base actually a wild pear rootstock, which also supports the growth of apples. That makes the rootstock very interesting. It is hard to find proper pear rootstock. Most pears have become eliminated from Canada due to tree diseases. We did get 4 pears on osx-87, osx-97 and osx-333 rootstock which resist desease better. They may or may not survive, but the malus fusca should. We hope they will survive the first winter, as they do come from British Columbia. Also, when we plant, we plant with additional knowledge every year. It absolutely helps to plant trees on a mound. To each planting hold, we added 3 buckets of extra soil. It settles over time but should remain slightly elevated. That is a plus in an area that gets 1400mm of rain a year.
103) The Corona crisis has heightened our determination to get our retreat ready in a hurry. We've been at it since 2013 but we are not there. This summer will see additional action. Before leaving, and after our two-week quarantine expired, we had our contractor over who did a few constructions for us (root cellar, solar shed). He promised to complete the parts that haven't been done yet before we return this summer. Importantly, this will include the hookup of two wood stoves. One for our new utility room, and one for the workshop. Including the main woodstove in the house, we have three operating woodstoves on our retreat in three separate structures.
104) Community relations are important. We continue to have excellent relations with our neighbours. Our direct neighbour (600 metres away) and talented craftsman and mechanic, 74 years old, definitely appreciates a little extra income. We continue to pay him for caretaking of our property during our absence. He also supervises contractors who may do some work during our absence. He also does work for us. This time, he will install an electric outlet in our root cellar. While it is well built, the humidity is high -- too high. There is condensation. It makes sense to run a dehumidifier in that space. We got one that consumes 380 Watts. It will run off our solar system. Just enough to keep the condensation away.
105) Speaking of solar, our application for net metering is currently getting processed by Nova Scotia Power. We expect approval before the summer. Our system is working well, but it is currently not up to regulations and we want to get there in a hurry.
106) We also want to have full high speed internet at the retreat. This makes us much less second guess if we should leave our primary home in Ontario when the situation calls for it. If we had Internet there now, we would have lived there since March. We both work from home with the virus lockdowns, and our child's school has been closed. The seasidehighspeed company offers Satellite internet for $70/month, and they only make you pay for a minimum of 4 months a year, as the comnpany attempts to appeal to cottagers. We hope to get that installed in the summer.
107) We also plan to have a dozer over in the summer that will clear 1000 m2 of good soil for us, where we can start growing grains in some volume. Of course the land needs to be limed, then limed again and fertilized, but that's less critical. Critical is to have the land ready for planting, and that means removal of existing vegetation and roots. Thus the neighbour with the dozer.
108) If, by automn of this year, we have (a) the three woodstoves in place, (b) the solar they way we want it, (c) the Internet hook up, (d) the cleared land ready for grain production, we will breathe much easier. It feels like borrowed time right now. The economic consequencs of the virus are serious and the government response, which is to throw money at the problem, financed by good old money printing, strikes us as accelerating the reasons why we want an out of the way retreat to begin with.
109) Oh, for the vehicle ... our after-market kill switch failed. That meant that our ultra reliable vehicle, the 4runner, actually left us dead on the way to our retreat in Quebec. We even needed a tow, because the relay switch that governs the kill switch was inaccessible without taking the dashboard panel off. Needless, we won't install anoather one nor any other electronics. On the other hand, we are very glad we now have a full set of skid plates. Poorly maintained dirt roads no longer worry us. With the skidplates, the hitchbasket and an extra fuel can on the roof, the 4runner consumed 12.6 L/100km over the 3500km return trip from Ontario to Nova Scotia.
Hi Clarence, having NS plates would be perfect. How would I go about getting those?
Forest guy, so sorry for missing your question. Based on what I know, you obviously need some proof of a residency. A friends house..... You purchase Your vehicle and register it and drive it home to quebec.... it’s a second vehicle for your second residence. Not advising anything illegal here and obviously it comes at a cost but Depending on which direction your headed, it could be of help.
Lots of variables and it must stand up legally or your up snot creek without a paddle and potentially when things are hairy. Look into your situation and I am confident you can find a Legal work around. I heard of a guy who had a Florida drivers license, bought a Mercedes in Germany, had Florida plates sent to Germany to be put on, had vehicle come into Halifax. He went to pick it and never drove it to the US! Thus no import duty, no American vehicle standards.... wonderful car at cheap price. It was insured.... I understand he drove it for years in Quebec.I guess he just never managed to make it down south with it. Even sent it back to Germany to have the latest technology put into it and brought back. Even purchased a second one the same way.
Just a story I heard about.