Gary Stuart

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since Sep 23, 2010
Wakefield, Quebec, zone 3b/4a CAN
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Recent posts by Gary Stuart

Going through the pics I found some that might be worthwhile sharing at the moment.

There is a sick-looking apple orchard to the right. I don't know enough yet but many of the apple trees appear diseased. In the background is the chicken coop with the stable/corral behind. And to the left out of shot is a rock-walled raised flower bed. This is the main 'lawn' region and the owners main candidate for turning into an edible landscape.

The lake. I probably can't touch this 'beach' bit, but the rest of the shoreline is mine to play with.

The forest in fall.

Our boring raised beds for the main veggie garden near the entrance gate, so this bit in particular has to look 'good'. Filled with trucked-in topsoil. Ugh.

7 years ago
Thank you for the link Renate! It's very hard to imagine planting alpine strawberries with more snow forecast overnight, but the day will come...
7 years ago
Hey Ludi

I'll check it out, but I'm under no illusions that the owners will. One of them doesn't particularly care about the edible landscaping project, and the other wants it and wants to like the final product, but I don't know how much he cares about the hows and whys and research. That's my job

So not only do I need to understand what I am doing, but I'll need to be able to break it down into layman's terms too, if they do ever ask about it.

Daunting and exciting.
7 years ago
A few days ago I was asked to get serious and make edible landscaping a large part of this property. But a little backstory first...

In October my small family moved onto a 'ranch and retreat' property as onsite caretakers, exchanging rent for work. The ranch is about 45 minutes north of Ottawa, generally zone 3b/4a (Canadian) with many micro climates, and has been in the same family for over 40 years, now belonging to two brothers. They agreed to let us bring our chickens and goats and start a veggie garden here and maintain our slightly odd fascination with self-sufficient living. We're still very new to homesteading and permaculture, so I expect to use this forum a lot and still possibly get many things wrong, I am far from qualified but I am willing to try.

Most of the rolling 50 acre property is overly grazed horse pasture, a large mixed-wood forest, a 10 acre spring-fed lake, swamp, rental chalets and short-mowed lawn. Top soil is thin, and everything below it is sand or rock. We're the first caretakers to have any interest in gardening/farming/homesteading and a few days ago one of the brothers asked me to really get serious with edible landscaping. Fruit trees, berries, mushrooms, herb gardens, etc.

Now, I don't get a carte blanche to do whatever I want, everything has to go through the owners, and their main criteria is that it has to fit their 'look' and be presentable to guests. Their 'look' is generally straight lines with everything neat and tidy which is why the garden beds we started builing in October are simple, straight raised beds. I'll need to introduce the concept of curves and spirals gradually, probably using the private yard of our cabin here to show them the possibilities. Our yard is 76'x48', flat and surrounded by forest, so figuring out a plan for that should be... interesting.

At this moment in time the ranch is buried until several feet of snow, so I am firmly in the research stage and there will be little progress within the next month. Pics are largely useless for now too as eveything is white, though there will be many to come eventually. And hopefully, maintaining the project thread will help to keep me on the right track.

Any and all comments, questions, suggestions etc. are greatly appreciated.
7 years ago
We can't afford to buy, so we searched for other options...

Until October of this year we were living on a family member's 150 acre farm, exchanging work for rent and the freedom to follow our own projects on the land.

Sadly the land owner passed away and that farm is for sale. We looked for places to rent but couldn't find anywhere appropriate, until I noticed an ad for a local 'ranch & retreat' looking for an onsite caretaker in return for free rent. We have to stay onsite, and work 80hrs per month, and the rest of the time is ours.

So here we are, on 50 acres with our goats, chickens, veggie garden and soon-to-be food forest. No we don't own it, and yeah there are clients wandering around, but it's largely a win-win for everyone.

If one day we can buy, we will, but for now arrangements like this work for us.
7 years ago
Thanks for thinking about us Judith!

We eventually heard back from the commission and our project was rejected. We had a good day of moping around, and starting the next day I was spending 4-5 hours a day mindlessly searching every website possible for anywhere to rent or buy in our budget. Two very promising looking rentals fell through when the two respective landlords tried to change terms on signing day and we had to pull out because, well... their terms were completely ridiculous and I doubt either of them will ever find a tenant. Every prospect fell through and it was starting to look very bleak.

So, we kept looking and finally find a local ranch/retreat who were looking for a live-in caretaker and who seemed to really like us. I resisted for a long time to keep looking for the perfect place of our own, but on our budget it was never going to happen, and these guys just kept offering more and more help to us, so... on October 15th we'll be moving to the Pine & Birch Ranch & Retreat in nearby Wakefield. It's close enough that we can bring everything (except our loved-but-too-big Pioneer Maid wood cookstove). We'll work on-site to pay for our rent, and they're giving us a large gardening space, goat/chicken housing and pastures, etc. as well as the opportunity to earn money on-site by bringing reservations/selling produce/selling my greenwood carvings to the guests.

It's certainly not permie-oriented, but maybe over time we can start steering them that way. They already love our suggestion to add a s/s composting bin in each house explaining that it helps to grow our food. It's a start. And an exciting one too!
8 years ago
Thank you for the response Judith, and if I could move down to the US I would be bombarding you with emails right about now! Sadly we can't (damn immigration laws) but what you suggest may be the only way to go about it. And even then, on a long enough timeline, you have to wonder who they will leave their land to eventually. At some point I think the leap of faith is unavoidable.

Before the land owner passed, he actually placed a request to have a portion of his land separated and was going to sell it to us for $1. It was always highly unlikely to get past the ag. land commission, one of the only reasons it got as far as it did was because he was quadriplegic and my wife provided the majority of his care and needed to be close. Now that he has passed we obviously lose that angle, but the commission still has the file and should be giving an answer any time within the next three weeks. If it's a no then we're back to square one. In the highly unlikely event of a 'yes' we will own 35 acres (6 rolling pasture, 29 hilly forest) but without the capital to build on it. So even then we would need to find someone to partner with.

Interesting times...
8 years ago
Thanks for that Adrien
8 years ago
I doubt that this will actually work but I figure it can't hurt to try...

For the past couple of years my wife, two kids and I have been setting up a homestead in the Outaouais region of Quebec. We were living and working on a farm owned by a family member and were led to believe that this was a long-term project, that the farm would never be sold and would be kept in the family. However, when the land owner passed away almost two months ago, the succession decided to sell, meaning we have to move on.

So now we're looking to set up again somewhere else, again hoping for a place to call home for the long-haul. We have a small amount of savings but nowhere near enough. We're being told that once the land is officially sold we will be given some cash but it all depends on how much they can get for this land. Our deal here was to work directly for the landowner in return for house rental and use of the land/buildings, which means we haven't had official jobs for over two years, meaning we have no chance of being approved for a mortgage. For the past two months I have scoured kijiji, craigslist, google, farmlink, etc. on the lookout for anything from rentals, farmshares, or lease-to-owns. There are a couple of farm rentals we're going to view in the next couple of weeks but they're not looking too promising right now. They don't seem like long-term options and seem to be more focused on conventional farming rather then permie-farming. We've even debated buying a patch of empty land and building our own home, and if I didn't have kids then I would probably go for it, but we just can't take that route and all the risks associated with it on our own.

So, I'm turning to permies to see if there is anyone out there interested in partnering up. Whether you have an extra house we could rent while working on your land, a patch of land you'd be willing to let us build on, or we pool resources and try to set up together, I'm open to discuss almost anything right now. On-grid, off-grid, working together or staying out of each other's way. We still have our livestock, equipment and tools that we could move if it's not too far, but we're open to options from Manitoba to PEI

Despite being a rabid lurker for the past couple of years I don't have many posts here, so if this interests you in any way and you want to know more about us, please feel free to take a look at our blog, ask questions right here, or PM me.

8 years ago
We had to move one hen and her nest several times both pre and post hatching due to constantly changing circumstances and she handled it no problem. She would puff up a little, but go right back to sitting on the eggs as soon as she could.

Another hen didn't handle the change well, or so we thought. As it turned out, she liked being broody but would get bored after a few days and just wander off. Then as soon as the eggs were no longer viable she would go broody again.

So in my minimal experience, I would say go for it, but try to make it a one time change. Is the nest in a box or just flat on the ground? If it's in some kind of nesting box I'd move the whole thing with her still in it. If not, then move them separately so she doesn't break the eggs.
8 years ago