Life on the farm – Latest house sit

All is well in our new farm life.

Apart from the other day when Kellie burst into the kitchen and shouted, “THERE’S TROUBLE ON THE FARM!!”

She pegged it back outside before I could discover what terrible event was occurring.

It was Marjorie. The chicken. She’d escaped from her pen!!

farm-Chickens

The next ten minutes involved a lot of distressed flapping, and a bumbling bearded bloke trying to chase down a surprisingly agile hen. Kellie was of course on hand to help, by belly laughing somewhere in the background.

It was more drama then you’d get in an episode of The Archers.

(For all you non-UK folks, The Archers is a radio drama so twee, that such a thing could only exist in the UK. It’s a long running work of fiction broadcast by BBC national radio, based on the highs and lows of a farming community. I’m not making it up honestly!!)

The crisis was averted and Marjorie rejoined the other 19 Marjories. They all look the same, so it’s easier to give them the same name (chicken racism?).

They keep us happily supplied with fresh eggs. All we have to do is let them out in the morning, put them to bed at night, and occasionally catch the Steve McQueen of the hen world, if one makes a break for freedom.

It’s also our first house sit with horses. Surprisingly tending to these two has been really simple. Muck out and feed 3x a day, which gets us out of bed in the morning and only takes us ten minutes each time.

farm-montage

I’m sure there is much more to it long term, but in the short term it’s actually much easier than walking a dog twice a day. On top of that I am pleased to report that horse poo smells much less than dogs. I’m sure you were wondering.

Then we have this snuggle monster, Juniper:

farm-juniper

Juniper is like the best parts of a dog and cat combined. Not a weird genetic mutation. She is nicely independent, but also loves cuddles. This is a novelty. All cats we have experienced either claw us for no reason, or look at us with contempt until their owners return.

Feeling settled on the farm

So the farm…

Well it’s actually five acres of land, surrounded by thick forests, rather than a farm. But it’s pretty farm like to us.

We are on the outskirts of Qualicum Beach, a seaside town on Vancouver Island.

The home has got a real cosy feel to it. A wood burning stove heats the entire house, which is perfect to curl up in front of on a rainy day and or for Kellie whilst she is in recovery mode.

farm-cosy

The living room is TV-less, which is fantastic. TV nowadays only makes me angry and shouty, especially during American/Canadian ad breaks, which are every 5 seconds and mainly focus on selling you drugs for depression, weight loss, medical ailments etc.

The side effects of the drugs are longer than the rest of the advert and may cause such things as:

Anal bleeding,
suicidal thoughts,
heart failure,
paralaysis.

Good grief! The list goes on and on, but I should stop now, before I start an uncontrolled rant at marketing by drugs companies.

This is a real advert, although it seems like a parody… At least it’s honest I guess!

[weaver_youtube http://youtu.be/taXGAPZwuCo sd=0 percent=100 center=1 rel=0 https=0 privacy=0]

Back to the point… We have become more productive without a TV. Kellie is using Duolingo to learn French for our upcoming cycling adventure in Europe.

We got the owners bikes and panniers out the other day, as kind of test run to see if our two-wheeled exploration wasn’t totally crazy for a couple of people who hardly ever cycle. After a successful and only slightly wobbly mission into town to do the weekly food shop, we are still on course for a tandem ride around Europe.

The house has a piano, so I am trying to learn a new skill. This is in turn teaching Kellie to be more patient, as she is forced to listen to me clumsily repeating the opening bars of ‘Hey Jude’ over and over again, whilst I busily chew my bottom lip to death. It’s my concentration face.

farm-Englishman-river-fallsExploring Englishman River Falls

Ideas for the future

The owners are pretty handy, building most of the house from scratch. They also use the land to grow their own fruit and veg, and are currently about 80% sustainable.

We dream of buying some land in Scotland and building a tiny house. It would come complete with a donkey, chickens and maybe a lama for comedy value. In the dream we’d be near the coast, growing our own veggies and living a simple but productive life.

This ‘farm’ house is giving us a mini taster of that life, and we like it A LOT!

Plus this place also comes with an outdoor Jacuzzi and a wood fired pizza oven, which definitely warms the cockles on a cold winter evening.

It’s safe to say all this productivity, dream building and the plentiful supply of delicious pizza, means we are a little bit in love with our month long Qualicum house sit.

We use Housecarers.com and Trustedhousesitters.com to find our house sits.

farm-pizza

5 year anniversary, sleepless nights and new plans!

Me and the husband - old

Last night it was our 5 year anniversary.

I couldn’t sleep.

Hours of non-stop ceiling staring.

Turn one way. Adjust the pillow. Sigh.

Turn the other way. Re-fluff the pillow.

Sigh more heavily and hope Kellie is also awake to share my insomnia. Then we can sit up and watch crap Netflix films into the early hours.

She’s not.

I feel a little bit of irrational hatred towards her, all smug in a blissful deep sleep.

Repeat hundreds of times and add in lots of feet fidgeting.

But for once I didn’t mind the insomnia too much.

I’m excited, we have new plans!

For a while we have been a bit meh about our travels.

I wasn’t entirely sure why. We’ve had some wonderful house sits, met lovely people, and have an exciting 3 month adventure planned for South America.

What the hell is wrong with us?

I know we are extremely fortunate. But nothing has made us giddy with excitement for a while. We have become nonchalant.

Then yesterday everything changed. We regained our travel bug and now I can no longer sleep at night…

It was the day of our 5th Anniversary.

5 years since we first met. I’m not going to write a soppy post about how much I love this stupid face…

stupid-face-anniversary

For that you can read last year’s post on our 4-year anniversary.

Instead Kellie surprised me with an idea.

I’m not sure what makes me happier. The cool idea, or the fact that after she can still surprise me after all this time.

Before I reveal the ‘Big Idea’ First I need to explain something (don’t go skipping to the end it will only spoil it).

The truth

Over the last 13 months Kel has been ill.

Yep, I know she has mentioned it in several posts, but if anything she has underplayed it.

She knows there will always be others who have it much worse than her so doesn’t want to moan. So instead I will moan for her.

It’s not a life threatening illness; basically the parasites she picked up in Mexico have wrecked her guts and made her digestive system a haven to any bugs or parasites looking for a new home.

It’s a bit like having a really bad hangover for an entire year.

After every meal she feels sick. She wakes up she feels sick. She has a drink of water she feels sick. She wakes up in the middle of the night feeling sick. You get the picture.

Then there are the side effects from bad digestion, which I am sure you can imagine without the need for a diagram.

Her diet has changed dramatically. I think the name Hungry Escapades gives it away; we both love our food and would try practically anything at least once.

Now, the list of restriction dietary restrictions for Kellie is almost endless. We slowly discovered what worked and what didn’t for her gut, after many MANY months.

Even with this strict diet the sickness would still come.

It’s an extremely healthy diet granted, but when you are travelling the world you want to sample all the local food and not worry about what’s in it.

anniversary-raw-vegan-foodOne positive – we discovered how delicious raw vegan food can be – Raw chilli

Plus all this healthy food can be quite hard to source in some countries, unless you are happy eating veggies, rice and porridge every single day.

Put simply, though not deadly, it’s a struggle. It starts to weigh you down mentally as much as it does physically.

After nearly 13 months of this, going from doctor to doctor, paying hundreds of pounds for them to test, prescribe and ‘cure’ her. Nothing worked.

She continued to lose weight and was quickly evaporating.

Although all Kellie’s last medical test were clear of bugs, it was obvious something still wasn’t right.

Healing

Finally in December we got time to settle in Canada and she went to see a Naturopath, who listened to her problems and had personal experience with parasites.

If I ever meet this Naturopath, I would make her feel extremely awkward by repeatedly kissing her face and hugging the shit out of her.

It would all be non-sexual affection, but this lady should know she is changing Kellie’s life for the better.

After one month, the drugs and potions she prescribed have meant she can now… wait for it….

EAT A F****ING EGG!!!!

This is not a joke. You will not believe how adding an egg to your diet can revolutionise your life.

The egg symbolises so much more than increased recipe options, it also means Kellie’s insides are starting to heal.

The queasy feeling still makes an appearance, but less frequently.

She ate steak yesterday for our anniversary meal, and although her stomach sounded like an angry bear, she was fine.

This is all good news and a step in the right direction, but we are not fooling ourselves that her blighted immune system is now fully healed.

There is still a long way to go

Creeping ever closer on the horizon was our trip to South America.

In two months time we should be heading to Colombia and starting a 3-month trip around its surrounding countries.

Originally this would have been a dream trip, but at this stage in Kellie’s recovery it fills us with trepidation. Looking back, this was the major source of our ‘meh’ feeling.

Now I agree fear should not prevent you following your dreams, but also it would be ridiculous jeopardising Kellie’s health for this type of adventure. The Naturopath also advised her not to go in the near future.

Her belly just isn’t strong enough to cope with the potential bugs, plus we have so much more planned in the future which requires Kellie having good health.

We thought about taking our own cooking gear so we can make sure everything cooked is clean and bug free, but it’s just not practical for 3 months.

When you are planning on heading to the Amazon or taking a guided 5 day hike in Patagonia, you can’t just pop to the shops to get your groceries and make sure everything is sanitised to Kel’s standards.

You can’t just get your cooking gear out on an 18hr bus journey and whip up a healthy culinary delight. A day of fasting would not be healthy, especially as she would have to watch me stuff my face with all the local food, which would be napalm for her innards.

So finally we let the dream go… for now anyway…

Surprisingly it was relief once we made the decision. Most of the meh lifted.

We can’t say we aren’t a little bit disappointed. We were due to meet some good friends. Together we would have backpacked our way through beautiful countries and shared some amazing experiences.

But in my previous post ‘Project Life’ – which you should go read now rather then repeat myself – helped me see this decision as now, rather than forever.

One day we will go to South America and enjoy all it offers, but now is not the time.

Making new plans

The void of our non-South America adventure had to be filled. We floated ideas of continuing house sitting in New Zealand or France maybe.

All fine, but too similar to our current escapade.

We needed something different, something to raise the pulse and challenge us in a new way.

Then yesterday, as we drove through the heavy rain to our new house sit on Vancouver Island, came this whopper from The Jones (Kellie for all you newcomers).

“I know!!! Why don’t we cycle Europe???!!” she said just as we sped past a cyclist…

“F*** yes,” was my instant reply.

So that’s it, just like that we are about 90% certain we are off to explore our home continent on two wheels.

It excites us.

cycle-tour-anniversary

We are not hardcore cyclists. We will do it in our own way. Cycle as much or as little as we feel. Catch the train. Stay in hotels, tree houses or camp. Cook our own food. Maybe even house sit.

If Kellie’s immune system continues to heal we will challenge ourselves physically, whilst eating our way through Europe. If not, we will take it slowly and I will gorge myself on cheese, wine and bread.

Although we aren’t kidding ourselves it will always be easy, the romantic dreams rarely match reality, it just feels right.

The challenging things in life usually bring you the most memories and satisfaction.

In my head, travelling through a country on bike, rather than a bus or car, brings you much closer to the land and people. This hopefully will give us many more encounters with local folk and allow us to discover things we would normally have passed by.

The plan is vague. Let’s start in Holland. It’s nice and flat…

And then where?

This is the fun part. Let the planning commence!!

This is now a meh free zone.

Escaping an Ecovillage

Recently we decided to volunteer at and Ecovillage in Canada. We’ve been pretty comfortable house sitting our way around Mexico, the USA and most recently Canada, but sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone. We’ve wanted to get involved in the community a bit more and add some purpose to our day.

With this in mind we looked into doing some volunteering through Workaway.

ecovillageThis is what we imagined

Having recently become all consumed by the idea of building a tiny house, we’ve binge watched George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, sought out documentaries and I’ve got a rather impressive Pinterest board going on. Heading somewhere to learn some new skills sounded like a fun idea.

After scouring through a long list, we applied for a place on an Ecovillage. Learning how to become more socially, ecologically and economically sustainable, sounded right up our street.

I imagined learning how to build sustainably and finding out more about sustainable food production.

Upon arrival my romantic dreams were shattered…it looked like a run of the mill housing estate in the suburbs. This was not quite what I had in mind.

I can be pretty quick at jumping to conclusions, so as we arrived at 10pm at night, I thought I should maybe reserve judgment until the light of day.  Sometimes things do look worse at night.

The warning signs kept coming.

We were shown to our room, it was ice cold. At -4°C outside a bit of heat might have been nice.

I went to the bathroom; there was no toilet roll or towel to dry our hands on.

We got into bed and it smelt like cheesy feet.

To me these are just the basics of making someone feel welcome in your home. Clean sheets, a bit of heat and some toilet roll don’t seem like too much to ask…do they?

In the past I may have started moaning about this to Rob, but over the last year I’ve learnt lots of things and one of them is sometimes I just have to shut up and get on with it. I do enjoy a good moan but it doesn’t really solve anything and can just make an already bad situation even more negative.

I said nothing.

We woke in the morning. It was still cold. I could see my breath as I lay there in bed; this is never a good thing. I had to prepare myself mentally for the step from the bed onto the freezing tiled floor and did a cold dance as I got dressed in record time.

I still said nothing.

After breakfast we were shown around the whole Ecovillage.

ecovillage-realityA smaller version of this was closer to the reality

My initial impression of a housing estate was correct. In fact, the community aspect of the Ecovillage was that they houses were built close together so that everyone on your street could see into your kitchen. Apparently this was to promote community cohesion.

In our walk around the estate I didn’t see a single other person. People live there, but seem to go off to work during the day coming back in the evening to go home cook a meal and watch TV.

Ecovillage jobs

Moving stones, raking leaves and painting.

Not quite the skills I was hoping to pick up. I’ve haven’t spent any dedicated time learning to rake leaves, but I’m pretty sure I’d be ok it if I just gave it a go.

Having still not said anything to Rob, we layered up and headed out into the sub zero temperatures to rake leaves.

After about an hour Rob walked over to me.

“It’s shit, I don’t want to stay.” Was all he said and hugged me.

I was pleased for 2 reasons, firstly he was feeling the same as me and secondly he said it first.

“Me either!” I replied, although my facial muscles were now completely frozen, so it was probably more like a Chewbacca noise.

Rob pretty much has the attitude of ‘Just get on with it’. He isn’t usually a moaner, when he is ill he just gets on with it, when he has a problem he solves it, no moaning required. I knew it must have been bad for him to break first.

Decision made, we then had to find a way to leave.

Rob set off along the road to enquire about public transport to make our escape.

He returned 20 minutes later with the news that there was in fact no public transport for several towns around.

We might be stuck. The more we searched for a way out, the less likely it seemed. I’m sure the owners would have given us a lift, but the conversation of, “We don’t like it here. Can you help us leave,” would have been an awkward one.

The escape route

On this journey we’ve been lucky enough to meet some truly wonderful people. None more so than Lynn and Chris, the last homeowners we sat for in Vancouver. Before we left they’d said, “If you don’t like it (at the Ecovillage), just come back here.”

I fired off an email to them asking if we could indeed return. Immediately Lynn replied with, “Yes of course”.

Relieved but still stuck, and busy tearing our hair out whilst looking for any form of transportation out of our predicament, our mobile started to ring.

It was Chris our saviour! Offering to come and pick us up after he finished work, driving 2 hours out of his way and refusing to accept any petrol money.

We only spent a few days with Chris and Lynn, but they feel like old friends we have known for years. We can’t thank them enough!

Escape route planned, a sense of calm was once again restored.

What did we learn from this?

We were incredibly naive. We have some experience of sustainable living and ecovillages, which were part of the inspiration for us doing this.

We should have asked more questions, found out more about the Ecovillage and what we’d be doing there. Not just assumed they are all the same. The place wasn’t awful, the people we were staying with were friendly.

We could have stayed, hated our entire week and moaned the whole time. Ultimately life is too short to do this, so we chose not to.

Being fair to the folks there, they have a vision to create a community in a society where you often don’t know your own neighbours. Throughout the year they reap and sew organic fruit and veggies from their land and have building projects which we would have loved to get involved with. It just wasn’t the right time of year or the right place for us.

It won’t stop us looking for similar opportunities, we’d just do MUCH more research next time.

The silver lining

Instead we headed over to Vancouver Island and spent a wonderful few days in the very beautiful Ucluelet. We found an amazing space to call home for 4 days. It was cold, windy and raining when we got there, but we were taken in by its instant charm. The coastline reminded us of our beloved Scotland.

Our time there consisted of walking along the dramatic driftwood covered beaches, in amongst the beautiful forests and eating delicious food in cozy pubs by the sea.

ecovillage-ferryThe ferry trip over to Vancouver Island is pretty special on a sunny day, apparently you occasionally see pods of orcas and other sea life!

ecovillage-bedroom

ecovillage-escape

ecovillage-food-cozy

ecovillage-long-beach-driftwood

ecovillage-long-beachWe stayed in a lovely cosy self-catering place via airBnB in Ucluelet, explored Long Beach Tofino and ate delicious food at Shelter restaurant. Definitely all worth checking out!

We spent less than one day doing something we didn’t like. It may have improved and maybe it’s a little harsh to judge something on such a short space of time. But first impressions go a long way and boy did it make us appreciate our unexpected adventure on Vancouver Island so much more.

Every cloud and all that….