The Pros and Cons – Reflecting on the Year

April 1st marks our first anniversary of moving to the Queendom. I still catch myself telling people that we just moved here but, like newly-weds, that status only lasts 365 days. In that mysterious way of time, this year feels like it has passed in both a blink of an eye and a lifetime. So long ago, we were staring wide-eyed at the immensity of it all – the pond, the acreage, the too-large house, the space, the wildlife, the quiet – and now we continue to stare widely at it but in a more understanding way. Now we have figured out what things need to be done regularly and we fall into step with our unwritten after-work chores and weekend tasks. When we look out across the pond or walk the property, we expect to find something new and exciting.

The point of this blog has been to help us remember the events of our new-found life. But, there have been more events than time permitted to sit at a computer and write. Here is the reader’s digest version of the pros and cons we discovered here:


unbelievable peace and quiet

we discover something new around here almost everyday

easy access to multiple trailheads

endless trail systems to explore (see alongapath)

short commutes to work

surrounded by trees – not a building in sight

easy access to delicious real farm food – veggies, fruit, meat, seafood, cheese, eggs, etc.

ducks, deer, birds, mink, bears, owls and frogs live here and are sighted often

new chicks and the hope of our own fresh eggs by summer’s end

a regular feeling of satisfaction from completing projects

the brewery is almost complete and the taps will be running soon

groceries, hardware and all other shopping is less than 10 minutes away

endless  possibilities for the Queendom – more so than we ever imagined


unpacking – it seems to go on and on! So much space and distractions have allowed us to be lazy on that front

the landscape project is huge, very long-term and often daunting

our landscaping crew from last summer did a merely passable job and charged too much money

invasive and unwanted plants are difficult to deal with and chronic, it seems

often a big effort results in a minuscule difference (such as digging out thistles and alders)

the property is wet, marshy, swampy and ugly in places

drainage issues have had us on high alarm a few times (not yet documented!)

our list of potential construction projects is long and very involved (deck, hot tub, garage, chicken coop, island bridge and pergola, etc.)

we are far, far away from our friends and we haven’t really connected with people here

time does not move slower out here.  We need more of it

Not surprisingly, the Pros out-count and out-weigh the Cons. There have been many things happen that we didn’t expect and a few true surprises, both positive and negative.  But we seem to have struck a balance with managing it all and are trying to keep our to-do list short and within reason. Neither of us would go back to our previous life. This smaller town/bigger space lifestyle suits us both so well and our only wish is that we had started on this rural path long, long ago.

The Tale of the Reluctant Landlords

Once upon a time, FM and I lived in a big city far, far away called Delta, BC. Our castle was a beautiful place in a convenient location with easy access to highways, shopping and reputed schools.

Our Home; Our Castle

Our Home; Our Castle

When we first acquired this castle, we could see that he had good bones but the sponge-painted walls and thick shag carpet gave a window to the neglect he had endured through the previous inhabitants.

The Castle before we updated all the windows, doors, roof and exterior colour

The Castle before we updated all the windows, doors, roof and exterior colour

Not afraid of dust nor hard work, during our first year, FM and I took on the challenge of repainting his entire interior, putting in birch hardwood floors and swapping out old appliances for modern ones with new-fangled gizmos.

We installed birch hardwood floors, a pellet stove,a  maple mantle and a stone hearth

We installed the birch hardwood floors, pellet stove and stone hearth and had the maple mantel custom-designed

We had help redesigning the kitchen layout with cork flooring, maple cabinets and glass backsplash

Our kitchen renovation included redesigning the kitchen layout, putting in cork flooring, maple cabinets and glass back splash

We gutted this bathroom, put in all new fixtures, custom tiled the walls and added a glass wall

We gutted this bathroom, put in all new fixtures, custom-tiled the shower and added a glass wall

This type of modernification carried on for the entire 9 year span that we were keepers of the castle. From new bathroom fixtures to a redesigned kitchen, from a new 50 year roof to a new exterior paint scheme, from an English Country garden to productive raised veggie beds, we did it all – with minimal help from professionals. The castle had entered the 21st Century with all the bells and whistles and he truly shone.

Corn, beans, potatoes, chard, kale, garlic, spinach, etc....

Corn, beans, potatoes, chard, kale, garlic, spinach, etc….

Broccoli, cauliflower, beets, kohlrabi, and the occasional self-seeded sunflower

But, about a year ago, FM and I got the itch and we decided that city living was not meeting our dreams. Despite our love of the castle, we could no longer suppress our need for space, quiet and endless puttering. Sooner than you can say “You better think this through a bit more thoroughly”, we jumped ship and headed off to the Queendom, in search of a simpler, quieter life on a remote island.

The life we imagined -  sipping a G&T on the Queendom's pond

The life we imagined – sipping a G&T on the Queendom’s pond

But what about the castle, you ask.

Sadly, he was left behind. He was left decorated with a ‘for sale’ sign out front and nothing more. His halls were bare, his appliances turned off and his gardens left fallow. He patiently awaited new keepers but none came. A few slightly interested folk came to admire his perennial gardens and his updates, and a few even proposed tearing him down to build a more modern mansion, but no one fell in love with him enough to make an offer. Months went by. Spring became summer, summer turned to fall and finally winter set in.

Don’t think for a minute that FM and I abandoned the castle during this long period. The truth is that we visited regularly, about once each month, to upkeep the gardens, polish the doorknobs and sweep up after the potential new residents. We even reglazed a bathtub, repainted the interior in a (boring) neutral tone and had staging furniture brought in for a few months. But our efforts made no difference to the fate of the castle.

Surprising as this may seem, FM and I do not have endless riches, even though we lived in a castle and now reside at the Queendom. The costs of holding the castle in limbo were weighing heavily upon us and causing each of us to spend long nights walking the halls in search of enlightenment. Finally we decided that the real estate market had plateaued to such a degree that we would be fools of the court to continue waiting for someone to pay our asking price. It was time to take action and the action to take was to find tenants for the castle.

But the action of renting can be a scary thing. I witnessed my parents struggle as landlords of a quadraplex at Whistler. I still have vivid memories of my dad coming home from a long day at work and heading straight out the door again to drive two hours to the cabin to deal with a clogged toilet or some such nonsense. I was raised on fearful stories of rental houses being turned into brothels and landowners being unable to evict the tenants. But our lack of endless riches forced me to downplay these stories and embrace the idea of bills being paid and cheques coming in.

On New Year’s Day, the ‘for sale’ sign was taken down and the ‘for rent’ listing was put up on craigslist. In no time at all, renters were lining up with references in hand, hoping to be the chosen ones – the stewards of the castle. Interviews were held and the selection made.

A hard-working, reliable, middle-aged couple with both a college-aged daughter and a mother-in-law were found to be the most worthy. Their obvious admiration for the finer details of the castle were noted and their references seemingly glowed. They wished to be deemed stewards for at least three years and even made mention that they may possibly want to be full-fledged keepers of the castle at some point in the future. That is a story yet untold and much of that story will depend on the recovery of the lower mainland real estate market and our financial security.

Until then, FM and I can rest more easily with fewer late night walks in our halls, although I am sure they will still occur. The honour of being the keepers of the castle resides strongly with us and its obligations weigh heavily on us still, but the decision to find renters was the wisest choice in light of the options we were given.

Farewell to the Angels

Winning the tackiest home decor award … the fireplace angels!

There is no accounting for bad taste in home decor.

There is no accounting for bad taste in home decor. Check out the sponge-painted fireplace surround while you’re at it!

These little angels are relics from our home in Delta. The previous owners had these carved wooden beauties mounted on either side of a gas fireplace in the TV room. When we moved into that house 9 years ago, our first order of business was to remove the hideous angels and I believe we did exactly that as soon as the moving truck pulled away. But FM and I held on to these angels all this time because we thought they deserved a memorable demise. Can you believe that they were included in our move to the Queendom?

Well, once we had mastered the routine of the bonfire, we decided that their time had come.

A Fitting Demise

Have we unknowingly cursed the Queendom with this action?

Truly, this post is simply an inside joke between me and FM that we hope will live on long after our memories fail. Just more evidence of the nutty connection and odd humour that we share.

Back To School Without Me

Today is the first day of a new school year.

All over the country, and much of the continent,schools are opening their doors to welcome students back after the summer break. Students are eager to catch up with friends after time apart.

Teachers are refreshed and full of new ideas to try with the new set of children they have been assigned.

And then there is me. At home. Alone.

As a teacher, I usually have an anxious, sleepless night, anticipating the excitement of being reunited with last year’s class and feeling pressure to make a positive impression with the new faces. But none of that happened this year.

Moving to a new town has been a bit of a blow for me. Although I love our new home in its stunning setting, I am adrift without my career. This is a surprise to me. I always believed that my job was just a job and, in fact after 15 years, I was looking forward to taking a well-deserved break from it.

When the opportunity to move presented itself, we didn’t hesitate. Pursuing a dream where lifestyle takes a higher priority than jobs, we picked up and moved to a small town. FM landed a job so we figured that we would live as a one-income family until I found something. I walked away from an established career as a most beloved Kindergarten teacher and arrived in the middle of nowhere.

But now, I find myself wondering if this was a wise choice. My previous identity no longer describes who I am becoming. When meeting new people, I seem to get befuddled when asked what I do. I guess the correct answer would be either ‘domestic engineer’ or ‘unemployed’ but I haven’t yet managed to say either aloud.

Where is the line between my career and my personality? This will require further consideration since teaching is much more than a 9 to 3 day job (despite what the media says!). But for now, I will take my recess coffee break on my sunny porch, overlooking my duck pond, and I’ll think about all my teaching colleagues who would love to trade places with me today.

A blissful recess indeed
(although our pond does not yet look like this)

Would the real Kit Kat please stand up!

Upon taking possession of our new abode, we found a note from Mike, the previous owner. He gave a few details about the house, some contact information for him and a vague mention of a lost cat. He said that his outdoor cat, Kit Kat, had been on a walk-about for a few weeks and would eventually turn up. Please call him (Mike) when Kit Kat came back and he would drive right over to collect him.

I should mention right away that FM is no fan of cats, being highly allergic to them. If ever we visit a home with a cat, the cat will undoubtedly make a beeline for FM, attempting to wind between his legs, and FM will make a beeline for the door. It was news to us to hear that a cat had lived in this house and instantly told us that we would have to be even more diligent in our cleaning before we settled in.

After a few days, we spotted the cat on the island in our pond. It was a grey long-haired cat with a black face. It sat ever so still making it easy to mistake it for a stump. The mystery of how it got onto the island continues to puzzle us but there it was. We didn’t contact Mike right away because, with no bridge, there is no way for a human (or a cat) to get to the island without getting soaked.

Who are you anyways?

Who are you anyway?

One afternoon, I spotted the cat near the kitchen porch. Thinking I could lure it nearer, I stepped outside and made tsk tsking sounds, believing that this is cat talk for ‘come here and get some lovin’. I know very little about cats myself, having been attacked at a young age by “Friendly” and wisely keeping my distance ever since. Well, my presence made this cat move at lightning speed across our property and through a fence. Kit Kat was playing hard-to-get and didn’t seem too interested in the fact that his family had relocated.

A few weeks passed with daily sightings of Kit Kat on the island but no progress in getting him to his rightful owner. One evening we had some friends over (cat people!) and, as they pulled up the driveway, a cat met them at their car door and made all the mewing sounds typical of a pet. But this cat was not the black-faced cat that we had been monitoring. This was a tabby with tortoise-coloured fur. As they entered the house, it took a concerted effort to keep this new cat outside. After we closed the door on him, he proceeded to caterwaul and throw himself at the windows. He launched himself at the window screens, tearing them as he fell to the ground. It became evident that this new cat was the missing Kit Kat, who had just returned from a long journey and was very keen on getting some lovin’ and some food. Sadly, he found no warm reception with us in the house and was obviously pissed off at the lack of attention.

After a long night of listening to Kit Kat wail and cry (despite the bucket of water), I emailed Mike in the early morning, saying “Kit Kat is back. Come at once!” Mike responded right away and arrived within 15 minutes. As I stood back and watched in awe, he somehow managed to grab this feisty pet, get it into his pick-up truck and drive away, dodging scratches all the while.

That was the last we saw of Kit Kat. I guess he figured that we aren’t worth visiting. But the other cat, the long-haired grey with the black face, can still be seen every so often, wandering on the far side of the property. We don’t know who he is but we know he isn’t Kit Kat.

The Song of 10,000 Frogs

When you buy a house, you know only a tiny bit about your new environment before you jump in.   High emotions cause you to overlook some aspects and to completely ignore others.  Luckily, we have discovered few surprises since moving in, and the surprises we have come across have not been insurmountable.

One discovery was made on our first evening in the new home – before the moving truck had even arrived.  It was March 31 and the evening was dark and cool.  It started at 7:45 pm – the first rib-bit.  We looked at each other and laughed since neither of us had realized that the large pond contained any life at all.  Soon the first call was answered by another rib-it and within 10 minutes, the air was thick with the croaking, cricking and creaking of frogs.  There must have been hundreds and hundreds of them.  We stood out on the balcony and took it all in.  I am not exaggerating when I say that we had to raise our voices to hear each other above the sound of the frogs.


As the evening wore on, the sound remained constant and I began to wonder if I would be able to sleep through it, but their sounds blended into a pleasant white noise that easily lulled us both to sleep.  In fact, when the frogs stop singing, about an hour before sunrise, the lack of singing wakes me up.

A little research around our pond and on the internet taught us that our pond is host to the Pacific Chorus Frog (or Pacific Tree Frog).  They are tiny little fellows, around 5 cm long, who can be vivid green or brownish-gold.  Their presence speaks volumes of the health of our pond water.  We have read that they will move on once the early spring mating seasons ends, but their tadpoles will grow here and they will return each spring.  Yahoo!

Pacific Chorus Frog

Pacific Chorus Frog – introducing ourselves to our neighbours

Pacific Chorus Frog#2

I’m with the band

Pacific Chorus Frog #3

Basking in the sunlight after a wild night