Where it all began…

Where it all began…

It’s important to know that I’m not a farmer. Emma isn’t one either. In fact, neither of us have the slightest drop of farming blood in our veins. The closest we’ve come is renting an allotment (40′ x 100′) from the city council in Newcastle and growing a nice crop of blue heritage potatoes. Oh, and that was in England about 10 years ago.

So, farming a 100 acre property in the rural outskirts of Ottawa, Canada, isn’t exactly our comfort zone. Yet, it sounded like a smart idea and so far, we haven’t regretted it.  That said, we’ve barely begun the adventure. If you keep reading, you’ll discover whether it works out for the plucky Brits in the end. There is always a chance we’ll end up scampering back to old blighty, tail between our legs, shaken by the experience and broken husks of our former vibrant selves. But let’s hope not. Either way, it should make for some entertaining reading…

First a disclosure: my language can be colourful. If you’re easily offended, bugger off and stop reading now.

Next, I’d better follow with an explanation of why we’re doing all of this: put simply, I’m restless.

At first that manifested as an urge to leave my hometown of Middlesbrough (affectionately known as the arsehole of England). As anyone that has ever been to Middlesbrough will attest, it’s a completely understandable reaction to the trauma. I didn’t realize the night sky wasn’t supposed to be orange until well into my teens. Steelworks, chemical plants, oil refineries, abandoned heavy industry and a dour population conspire against it. What’s more, the town is surrounded by the North Yorkshire moors and the Northumberland coast that entice a man like expensive whores into a beautifully colourful world outside…

So I left and relocated to Sheffield for university where I happily moved house every year for 4 years, until I then moved to Cambridge University, enrolling in a post-graduate course that required me to move to a different city / project every 2 – 4 weeks. Still, the urge to travel and explore was unquenched and I left for a six month trip to the far east / south east asia. Then back to live in London and then a relocation to Newcastle, all the while working for a consultancy company that kept me on the move each week.

Needless to say, this was all kind of frustrating for Emma. So, on the promise of a more stable life, we naturally decided to emmigrate to Ottawa (but not before another trip to Greece and Nepal for a few months). Five years later, we’re still in Ottawa but have had four different houses.

For her part, Emma just wanted a nice house, some kids and friends. Perhaps a chicken or two. We’ve been looking for a few years, but eventually, the sheer weight of her unremitting demands took their toll on me and 2010 saw an escalation of activity. Spurred on by a crappy economy with uncertain employment conditions, escalating oil prices, food prices, constant war, insane horror stories of unsafe food, products, business practice, corruption and crime…suffice to say we’re opting to get out of dodge. The goal was to find some land to fulfill a dream of building a smallholding (hobbyfarm to North Americans). Our ambitions weren’t excessive; just a parcel of 10 acres, set in a private, rural location with access to the city so I can continue to work.

After madness with Swiss farm owners who refused to negotiate, idiotic landowners with expectations that their land is worth more per gram than gold, we found 100 acres of environmentally protected forest, wetland and meadows that wasn’t officially for sale with no house, lots of abandoned cars and a burned out barn. Obviously we pounced and paid top dollar for it. So now I have a place to call home and if the early indications are anything to go by, Emma isn’t leaving this one. It’s where we’ll build our farm and house.

I’m playing catch up with this blog, so rather than post a monster, I’ll leave the tale of the house design and tractor purchase to another day. But here’s some photos of the laaand in the snow not too long after we finalised the purchase.

4 thoughts on “Where it all began…

  1. Awesome post Stephen! I love your writing – you definitely have a talent. Wit, humour, vivid description, and colourful language all in one place – could it be any better?I look forward to more of your tales…I am quite eager to see what happen to these plucky Brits…:) Karen

  2. I'd like to contest that Middlesbrough isn't the arsehole of England, more the gooch. High Wycombe, I can confirm, is the arsehole of the Northern hemisphere!Love the blog :-)Carl

  3. Great blog Stephen. Nice to feel like I can be a part of your journey. Keep writing. Ps hull is the arsehole of England, maybe borough is a close second, high wycombe can come third.

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