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Painted Story: We Bought a Farm

The story behind our move from city to country

This is the first in a new series of featured Painted Stories. These are painted portraits of a home, business, or place that is important to someone and the story that accompanies it. I hope you will love seeing the spaces that are important to people, learning a part of their story, and seeing it in painted form. I thought for this first post, why not start with myself?

It is high time I share with you what I’ve been working so hard on in the background here. A few months ago, we bought a patch of land and old farmhouse in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. We have plans to turn it into a colour farm and dye garden.

Even though the front of the house is likely the most charming side, I really wanted to paint our new home as I imagined it would look when we arrive in April. This view, from the drive, also has the advantage of showing the barn, which is a big part of the place, for us. Having only seen the house under blue skies with full summer greenery, it was a challenge to create this painted story, but well worth it.

The house and barn as I imagine they may look when we arrive. I do hope it’s not raining on moving day, though!

Every home tells a story

The house itself is an old Gothic Revival farmhouse with wide plank floors, built sometime between 1840-1890. Its all-white exterior and small-scale cozy rooms remind me of a British cottage. It has been well-loved over the years, but some of its character has been lost and we look forward to fixing it up. Next to the house sits a red barn with large sliding doors that open to create an indoor-outdoor space right near the house. We have plans to convert it into a studio space, workshop, and perhaps even a small shop.

Sunlight streaming through the upstairs gothic window of our new home. I look forward to painting this window in person.

Our small patch of land has been somewhat neglected over the years and is mostly grassland with a patch of woods along the back. It needs some cleaning up, but nonetheless does have some personality and story. We’ve discovered that there are several grand old oak trees and at least three different types of heritage apple trees – possibly lost varieties – that we will be sure to preserve. Across the back part of the land, through the woodland, once ran the North Mountain Railway. This was a short railway line that carried apples from nearby farms to a warehouse in town.

Dreaming of a garden

I have long loved cottage gardens, but the personality of the house is what has inspired us to build our farm in the style of a cottage garden filled with flowers and plants spilling over their beds. We plan to have a mix of herbs, edibles, flowers, and dye plants. It will be a magical space filled with handmade treasures to inspire and invigorate the senses as you make your way through the space.

I have long loved cottage gardens, but the personality of the house is what has inspired us to build our farm in the style of a cottage garden filled with flowers and plants spilling over their beds.

Choosing a meaningful path

This move has been a long time coming. It has been in the backs of our minds for several years, but having spent most, if not all, of our lives in the hearts of cities, it took a while for us to accept it. It stems from a deep soul-need for a quieter life of focussed creative work. We long to be more connected to the land and to the flow of each day and season. It is a deliberate shift to live a life filled with making, learning, and creating in all forms. We also hope to become more resilient and gain some independence from systems that seem increasingly fragile by growing our own food, and by learning to repair, build, and mend things. Finally, the valley seems to have such a strong community of creative businesses and we very much look forward to becoming a part of a smaller and more personal community.

For me, this move to Nova Scotia also has a beautiful symmetry to it. It is somewhat like going home. My great grandmother, my grandmother, and my father, are from there. My grandmother was from a family of fishermen and then married my grandfather who was in the navy. They lived on a naval base near Halifax before moving to Ontario when my father was a teenager. I grew up hearing stories about Nova Scotia. I was also born there – quite by accident – but nevertheless, I have always felt called to live by the sea.

For me, this move to Nova Scotia also has a beautiful symmetry to it. It is somewhat like going home. My great grandmother, my grandmother, and my father, are from there.

It has been my experience that we are amazingly adaptable – and that, often, even if what we adapt to at first seems lesser, it often eventually becomes something richer than we could have ever imagined. New paths, connections, and wisdoms are made available to us. So, I am looking at the handful of city things that I can’t imagine living without and wondering what better alternatives I may find as I go forward.

It is a wonderful feeling to own a small piece of land and I very much look forward to getting to know it in all its seasons, to listening and learning from it, and to crafting it into a beautiful, magical home and garden. You can learn more about the story behind this move, about creating vibrant colours from plants, and about our new home on the Roots & Table website.

I put together a gallery of artwork – Farewell, and Thank You, Montreal – it is an ode to this city in which we have lived for the past five years. Montreal has taught us so much and will forever have a place in our hearts.

A harbour near our new home along the Bay of Fundy. We’ll be 10-minutes from the sea, wooded trails, and rocky coastlines.