Backyard Chickens

Ok confession time. Darcie and I are evil criminal masterminds. It’s true! You’d never know it by looking at us, but for the past 6 months we’ve been breaking the law... by keeping really cool chickens in our backyard in Saskatoon!


Our master plan was foiled last week by the stealthy detective work of Animal Control Services, who read about us having backyard chickens in the StarPhoenix newspaper.

We’ll get to that but first, a bit of background information.

I’d always thought that chickens were pretty neat. I’m not sure exactly when Darcie and I became interested in backyard chickens, but I recall looking at magazines of people with beautiful homes and couple of chickens pecking around in the backyard.

Last year, the Better Good Store in Saskatoon (a sustainable, ethical home products shop) put on the Yard + Garden Tour through their neighbourhood. Darcie and I decided to go along and check it out. She had just recently quit her high-stress sales job in which she had travelled the province weekly and we were now looking for a way to get away from that lifestyle become more sustainable at home.

The garden tour was inspiring. All of the homes were very similar to ours – small urban lots without much room for what I would typically consider to be a garden. However these people had knocked it out of the park! There was food forests and permaculture and, yes, backyard chickens. Four of the eight houses had chickens. They stole the show. Darcie and I left the tour and decided that night that we needed to get chickens.

Darcie, in quitting her job, had also decided that she was no longer going to drive a car. She had purchased a bicycle and was going to ride that as her means of transportation (which she totally has! Even through -40° celsius winter mornings. She is hardcore). We now had a useless parking space in our backyard… we started to envision this as the future home of our yet to be purchased chickens.

Within about two weeks I had researched plans about chicken coops and sheds online (we needed a shed to store Darcie’s bikes). There was a really deadly shed (yes, sheds can be deadly if done right) and a sexy chicken coop (seriously) that I came across. There were no plans for building, but in my naivety I thought, “Hey, I’ve never built anything in my life before, but how hard could it be to simply morph these two highly involved and clearly very skilled constructions into one ultra-awesome coop/shed masterpiece?”

I enlisted the services of my friend Benjamin who actually had built stuff before: decks and fences for money and his own extensive home renos; and we set to work building the coop/shed.

First, we moved the fence and levelled the ground. This took one entire day. The ground might as well of been concrete as it had been used as a parking spot for decades. The two pickaxes we used barely seemed to make a dent.

The next day Ben and I built the foundation. Then it was nighttime. Crap, I thought we’d be done by now. Also Ben had to go back to work the next day so it was just up to me and Darcie.

I had the week off so I spent 10-12 hour days constructing, researching, undoing, and redoing, and of course, not sleeping due to fear of failure and embarrassment. By the following weekend though I was pleased that it wasn’t looking half bad.

After three weeks the coop was completely done and was looking pretty dang nice. I was also quite impressed with myself having never built anything before. Sure it wasn’t totally square, but it close enough, and I couldn’t push it over with both hands so I was happy.

Here are a few process shots for your viewing pleasure:

Before (boring parking spot):


Framing the base:


That’s a wall:


Now it’s looking like something:


Now it’s really looking like something!


Ta-Da! Finished!



Not too shabby I thought. I totally wanted to show it off and post it on Instagram – but I had to stop myself. We couldn’t let people know what we were doing! It had to remain a top secret black ops type of thing. So when people would ask me what I’d been up to I’d simply say “oh, just building a boring old garden shed.” Of course that didn’t quite get across to people what I was doing. It was a bit underwhelming, but oh well.

Over the fall and winter months I read about chickens. First some websites and a few other blogs. I then read a short book from organic gardening magazine on raising backyard chickens. Though the best resource was “A Chicken in Every Yard” which I picked up from Turning the Tide bookstore. I also bought “Backyard Chickens for Dummies” (it seriously exists). By the late winter I was as ready as I possibly could be to have chickens. I’d also researched a chicken supplier of heritage birds who was just south of Swift Current SK. The difference between heritage chickens and the others was that heritage, as the name implies, are long standing breeds that have been pure bred (like a cat or dog) to maintain certain characteristics of that breed that were present before the “modern” breed of chickens – those of which have been more scientifically bred to produce a greater number of eggs or rear more meat – often at the sacrifice of the overall health of the bird in the long run. Anyways we’d decided on three chickens to start with and elected to go with a variety pack: Buff Orpington, Black Australorp, and a Barred Plymouth Rock. April 12th was the day we drove to the Swift Current poultry and exotic bird show.



They were a lot cuter than I expected. I dunno I always thought chickens were pretty ugly beasts, but these guys were downright handsome little devils. From right to left, we named them Hildie, Marge, and Ruth.

We had a lot of fun with these little guys introducing them to our neighbours, friends and family.  They were 8-week old “pullets” – basically teenagers. They don’t start laying eggs until they are fully mature at about 16-20 weeks old. So for 12-weeks these guys freeloaded off of us. Eating lots of feed and making us clean up after them every week.


After all the preparatory work and reading I’d done I was really surprised at how easy they were to take care of. Certainly they required some basic knowledge and understanding (what to eat, how often to clean the coop, how to clean it, when to introduce them to other pets, etc etc), but overall they weren’t that much work. Basically we’d let them out of the insulated henhouse in the morning. If it was cool in the night then I would turn on the heat lamp I’d installed (I also installed a thermometer inside the coop that we could monitor from inside our house to make sure they didn’t get too cold). In the morning they’d trot down the ramp, eat some food, take a few craps, and drink some water. The rest of the day they’d scratch around in their coop and then at night they’d walk up the ramp and back into their henhouse. Pretty simple.

For the first few nights they weren’t sleeping on the roosts. I’d read that it was instinct for them to sleep on the planks of wood that I’d installed in the henhouse. But instead I’d find them sleeping on the nesting box, in the nesting box, or huddled in the corner. C’mon you dumb chickens! It’s supposed to be instinctual! So for the next few days, after dark, we’d open the henhouse and place them on the roost. Most mornings they were elsewhere, but after a week Ruth stayed on it all night, and by the next night all three perched there until morning. Since then we’d never had an issue. Great success!

We resisted introducing them to the dog for several weeks out of fear that she would kill them or more likely that the hens would peck out our French Bulldog’s eyeballs. Needless to say, Fiona, the dog, was highly curious of these weird creatures that had suddenly shown up in her backyard.


However after about 6 weeks, Fiona didn’t seem to care about them anymore and the chickens equally seemed uninterested in her. Also, they were getting bigger and, although their coop was plenty big enough for them, they seemed a bit bored. Cooped up, you might say (ha!).We discussed it and thought, maybe we should try letting them out in the backyard and seeing how they do. We were prepared for the worst: feathers, blood, eyeballs, all of it.



But none of that happened! In fact, it was positively uneventful. Boring you might say. I had prepared myself for blood and there was none. They just walked around, took a couple of craps, and when Fiona tried to sniff one they freaked out and ran back into their coop.

In late June we got our first egg courtesy of Ruth. We were so excited about it. But then had to laugh, why were we so excited that a chicken had laid an egg? Isn’t that their job? Isn’t that just what chickens normally do? Still it was pretty awesome.


Also, the chickens were being regularly let into the yard in the morning when I got up and when we were in the backyard. Fiona was less than impressed.


Around this time we were asked by Laura and Cory at the Better Good if we’d like to be apart of their Garden + Yard Tour this year as they had planned for it to go through our neighbourhood.

Hmm… we’d been trying to keep this super duper secret thus far, but at the same time we wanted people know what we were doing. I’d been reading books about urban farming and urban homesteading and certainly backyard chickens was a big thing that these movements talked about. We’d also already bought our land by this point, so we thought, what the heck, let’s do it.

By the way, Saskatoon, our city, is a funny place. We have many young, forward-thinking and progressive people doing a lot of very interesting things in a variety of disciplines, but for whatever reason, our city hall and council are very happy with the status quo (i.e. doing nothing progressive or forward thinking). It took 10 years for us to develop a city-wide recycling program for goodness sake.

As the time got closer to the garden tour, Cory called me and said that the StarPhoenix, the local newspaper, was very interested in the backyard chickens and wanted to do a story on it. They’d be coming on the tour and wanted to talk to us.

Ok, now we hadn’t planned for that. We were a bit nervous now. I was fine letting a hundred or so people in on our secret backyard chicken operation, but the whole city… yikes.

But as we talked with Cory and Laura, we realized that we were actually in a unique position, we had planned on listing our house this Fall (another post on that later) and moving the chicken coop out to our land at the end of month. Our good friends were kind enough to agree to add our hens to their existing flock, so really, we had nothing to lose. If we got in trouble it really wouldn’t be a big deal. So we thought, ok, bring on the press! Let’s confess!

The Garden Tour was August 17th and it was super fun. We had about 120 people through our backyard and the response was completely positive. Everyone was so interested in the chickens and our coop. We fielded innumerable questions about what our neighbours thought (they thought it was fun/cool), if we’d had any complaints (no), if they stink (no only if you don’t clean the coop), if they are loud (no they’re not roosters; they make a bit of squawking in morning when they wanted out and occasionally bok-bok-boking, but that’s about it), and many others. There were several people interested in starting their own flock in the city and a few others that also had chickens (co-conspirators!).

Also the StarPhoenix came through a took a bunch of notes and photos. After the tour, we waited for the article to be published and for any fall out.

Oh and I was going for surgery the next day.

The article was published in Monday’s paper. It was short and sweet and had a lovely description of our little setup. Hildie, the Barred Rock, was also featured in a photo (article is at the end of this post).

On Tuesday, as I lay on the couch moaning and bleeding out of my face while Darcie tended to my post-surgical wounds, the doorbell rang. “Um, this looks serious,” she said. A person in a fancy uniform was standing at our door. Darcie opened the door. Animal Control Services. Wow that was faster than we had anticipated. “I’m here about a report of chickens in your backyard. Are you aware of the bylaw?” “Yes, I am”, Darcie said. I was ready to be dragged off in handcuffs, crying and bleeding. Darcie told her, “They’re actually going to be moved out at the end of the week and the coop as well.” She also asked what the complaint was? “It’s regarding the newspaper article,” the official person lady said, “I’ll be back next week to make sure they’re gone.”

Just as Darcie sat back down and I breathed a sigh of relief that we hadn’t been thrown in shackles and strung up in the town square, the doorbell rang again. What the heck now?

It was the reporter from the StarPhoenix. “What was that all about?” She asked. Darcie explained to her that we’d been busted. “Well I’d like to interview you about the chickens and the bylaw and why you have them despite it. Can you do it now? I can have a photographer here right away.” Darcie tried to explain that I was on death’s doorstop, but I, like trooper I am, said to just do the interview.

For the next half hour Darcie talked to the reporter, took a short video, and had a bunch of photos snapped. The reporter told us it would likely be a front page article. Oh damn. (See attached article at the end of this post).

On Thursday the news broke. Sure enough, It was front and centre on page #1. Darcie smiling and holding Marge (the Buff Orpington) and the headline reading “Councillor says chickens can be deadly.” Frick. That really doesn’t sound like what we were going for. We don’t want to be the crazy evil chicken people. However as you read the article it quickly became clear that that statement was simply ludicrous. They had interviewed three city councillors, the first guy was very deadset against chickens. Reading his comments was like reading an article on The Onion. His statements were so preposterous that I was laughing out loud at several occasions. The second councillor was also misinformed quite badly, but at least he was open to a pilot project for chickens in the city. And the third, one of the only rational voices on the city council, Charlie Clark, commented that he actually lived next to a house that kept backyard chickens, was completely supportive about it and had many valid, well-informed and thoughtful ideas about backyard chickens.

The response to the article from the public was remarkably and overwhelmingly positive. I read through all of the Facebook comments that I could that were linked to the article through various sources or shared on other pages. I was surprised at the incredible majority (well over 95%) of people who were in favour and supportive of having chickens in the city. It was also very rewarding to hear the comments from our neighbours (who we had not previously talked to about chickens), who enjoyed the quiet clucking they heard in the morning and that it “made them love their neighbourhood even more” and others who said they’d “miss not hearing the clucking.” We were also very happy to read a number of comments from people who were on the tour that were inspired by our mini urban homestead.

Overall we have really enjoyed the process of having chickens in the city, although short-lived due to our move out to the country. It has been such a pleasure to have the hens in our backyard. It brings a great sense of satisfaction when you can learn about something, research it, make it into a reality and see other people be inspired and excited about it too.


YARD TOUR SHOWCASES SUSTAINABILITY – The StarPhoenix – August 18, 2014

COUNCILLOR SAYS CHICKENS CAN BE DEADLY – The StarPhoenix – August 22, 2014

(Originally posted August 24, 2014)

Sandbars: Our Private Beach

This part of the South SK River is notorious for having a butt-load of sandbars, which is pretty amazing because it’s basically like having our own private beach. When we bought the property in May there were no sandbars. The river was very high from the Gardner dam releasing so much water. However over the month of July the sandbars started to reveal themselves.

When we first bought the land, this is what it looked like. Still pretty dang nice.



By mid-July, this is what started to emerge…



Being on the river is different than being at the lake. This goes without saying of course given the strong current that our river has. It’s not really a place to go for a leisurely swim… unless you have a sandbar that you can wade onto.

Still I was pretty apprehensive about going into the water. It wasn’t until about three months after we bought it that I decided I had to experience it – the day we finished the Yurt build. With the heat wave that we’d been having that week, I simply could not resist jumping in the river.

The largest sandbar in front of our land had really come in and was only a short jaunt from were we put in our irrigation pump.


I threw on my life jacket, walked down to the river, and jumped in.


I turned around, swimming to the sandbar and thought to myself, “Oh my god, this is… ours!” It really hadn’t sunk in until that moment that we actually owned this. This was our place. This was our river. And I was swimming in it!

It was a mind-blowing realization. Obviously we had owned this for three months now, but it still felt like we were somehow borrowing it from someone or maybe squatting on someone else’s land. But nope, it was ours.

This realization hit me with a feeling of total unadulterated joy. I started running the length of the sandbar laughing like a lunatic, pumping my fists in the air, and yelling non-sensicals. I might have even skipped and danced and thrown a bit of sand in the air.


(Originally posted August 23, 2014)

Building the Yurt

We’d just come back from a super relaxing six days at Besnard Lake, SK. In fact we were so relaxed that we decided to come back a day early. Any more mellow and we were worried we’d lose the drive for putting up our yurt, which we were supposed to be picking up the day we got home. The following morning we drove to the local yurt delivery company (at least I think that is all they deliver). A man in a neon yellow jumpsuit questioned me, “do you know how big this thing is?” I had a pretty good idea – 8’x4’x7’ and about 1000 lbs. Bingo, he said. I’d brought my trusty rusty truck and trailer along to do the job. Getting the huge crate onto the trailer was a feat of engineering prowess and a bit of improvisation on the part of the young forklift operator. I was a bit worried when he started using the points of the forklift to jab and push the crate and also when the bottom support bracket snapped off send a metal strap flying into the air, but hey, he got the job done. We secured it in place and away we went. Ready to getting yurting…


We drove out to our shop and I got to work opening up this massive box.


As we started to dig through the box and lay stuff out on the floor I had an overwhelming sense of dread… I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t know how to build a yurt! What kind of fool am I to think I can just build a Mongolian house in 3 days… Who do I think I am? All these thoughts were running through my head and I felt in over my head. Again.

Oh well. Too late now!

The next day, my dad came out to help me finish the cursed foundation, which entailed laying the radiant insulation and installing the plywood subfloor. I know, it sounds like an easy job. But man, it takes forever. 5 hours later it was done.


Day 2, was the day that we asked (begged) some friends and family to come out to help us. We bribed them with beer and hotdogs, and you know what, seven people showed up! Ha! Suckers!

Darcie and I got up early to try and finish the flooring. We had bought some $1/sqft tile and laminate flooring from the left over stuff at one of the flooring places in town. People always buy too much flooring so if you need a small amount of tile or other flooring for a laundry or bathroom floor (or yurt, naturally) then ask these companies. They’re happy to get rid of it and there was a lot of good options. Anyways we had hoped to get the flooring done before everyone showed up, but by 1:00pm we were still working on it. Frick. How were we going to get this yurt up by tonight?

I had read the lengthy 25 step manual of installing the yurt twice through the day before and felt as prepared as I could be. But by early afternoon we were yet to start step #1. Finishing the floor was pretty much insane. John (Darcie’s dad) laid on the grass and used my jig saw to cut the laminate floor following the circular plywood I’d cut the day before. He then cut all of the tiles into a rounded edges by hand. We nicknamed him Popeye for obvious reasons. Darcie laid and mortared the tiles. Dad and I laid the laminate. And Scott and Ryan (our helpers) cut and fastened a skirting with 5/16” plywood around the perimeter of the base. Everyone had a job. Including my mom who documented and photographed this whole process. Finally Step #0 was done.



Step #1 involved installing the door frame to the base. Immediately everyone started saying how this should be done. Darcie and I were the only ones that had read the manual so we had to tell our parents to listen up… You know how parents are. The door went on square and level. Neat! Maybe this whole yurt thing won’t be that bad.

Step #2 was installing the lattice. This was pretty fun. It was all rolled up in a tight little bundle that we all wondered how to could possibly be stretched out to 45 feet. But with us pulling along its length, after bolting one side to the door frame, it stretched out beautifully. There. Walls. Done. Hell ya. Now onto the (not) fun part. Raising the rafters.


Step #3. The rafters are very pretty 2.5” round Douglas fir beams. There is a cut out on one side and a peg on the other. The peg was to theoretically insert into the centre ring and the cut out was to sit on the airplane wire that we’d strung around the top of the lattice. Ryan and Scott climbed a ladder each holding the sides of the ring with their arms outstretched above their heads. Meanwhile the rest of us idiots tried to maneuver the beams into the ring trying not to knock Scott and Ryan off the ladder or hit any of us in the face with the beams. Sounds chaotic? It was. There was also a lot yelling and swearing… “No put it here.” “No over here!” “No this one!” “Oh shit!” Look out!!” Let me remind you that Darcie and I was the only ones that read the instruction manual. However I would say that the manual was a little bit overly optimistic on the ease of putting these up. “The peg should slide easily in when you have the correct angle.” Well, I guess we’re morons because we never found the correct angle. We ended up having to hammer the ends of the posts in place. Fortunately we only had two posts fall. Neither of them hit anyone but both took a nice chip out of our freshly laid floor. By the time we got the last rafter in place it was 5:00pm and everyone was tired, sore and ready to head home. And now the the yurt was starting to look like a yurt at least.


Darcie and I, worried about a chance of overnight rain or that the humidity from the river would wreck our floor, decided to keep going. Who needs food and water and rest? Not us. We kept working. Turning on flood lights when the sun went down, we installed the inner posts for snow/wind protection (which you can see in the above photo), laid the inner liner on the roof and walls, insulated the roof and walls and lastly, hung the exterior liners. At around 11:00pm we put the door back on and threw a tarp over the dome opening of the roof. There. We were going to sleep in the yurt. We had been motivated all day to be able to sleep in the yurt that night and dammit we were going to do it.

We dragged our sleeping bags and air mattress from the tent and put it inside. Just then the wind started to come up, whipping the tarp against the roof and wall. Hmm maybe earplugs would help. I went back to the shop to find some… Two ear plugs. Ok well I sleep on my right side and Darcie sleeps on the left. We each got one. Needless to say our first sleep in the yurt wasn’t the best despite being incredibly tired. At 5:00am I got up and took the tarp off. The sun was already shining and birds were chirping. There was barely a wind but I guess it doesn’t take much for a 20×15 foot tarp to get blown around. I went back and laid down. I looked up through the centre ring to the sky above. Woah. It hit me. I’m laying in a mother trucking yurt! That we built! “Darcie look at this yurt!” We watched the sky through the centre opening. Not a moment later a passenger plane cruising at 30000ft peacefully passed across our view leaving a majestic stream of cloud behind it. Wow. What were the chances of that?! We waved to the plane from the comfort of our yurt.


Although we felt close to being done we still had 7 or 8 steps left. Fortunately my parents were coming back to help. This was all the finishing stuff now. We had to first lace the roof and walls together with the “nylon rope provided in your materials kits.” Ummm, where’s the rope? Ok, there’s no rope. Well, then let’s do the next step, “use the zip ties to secure the inner lining to the airplane wire.” Cool. Oh wait, where’s all the zip ties? Frick. I called my parents and asked them to stop and pick up these supplies in the meantime, Darcie and I went to work evening out the outer lining.

The outer lining is a beast. It’s a heavy canvas/vinyl material that’s 8’ tall and over 45’ long. You want it to be symmetrical all the way around so that the windows all line up nicely. Really there’s no easy way to do this. We measured it out and figured we needed about 13 inches of excess on either side. After three tries we got it evened out. Sweet, now it will be super easy for my dad and I to lace the roof and walls. Piece of cake. Ya, not so fast.

To be honest, I have no idea how this happened, but we effed it up big time. Once my parents arrived I explained what we had to do. Each of us lacing zig-zag style from the back to the front. My dad doing one half and me the other. This wasn’t easy work. But we made it around, stepped back and thought, Oh shit. It wasn’t even close! There was 19” of overlap on my dad’s side and 7” on my side. It looked terrible. One window was super far from the door and the other was ridiculously close.

“Nope, I’m not doing that again. No way. It looks fine,” my dad tried to convince me. Um, it looks horrible, I said. This is not acceptable. We have to get it right. I don’t mind a bit of the Wabi-Sabi look, but this was just crap. Ok, how were we going to fix this without pulling the liner completely off and redoing it totally. We decided to start at the door this time. We knew there needed to be a 13″ overhang of excess material on each side. So Darcie’s job was to hold the liner and make sure it stayed at 13″. Dad and I unlaced the liner sequentially, took up the slack and relaced, while my mom made sure everything laid evenly between the door and where we were relacing.


With our fingers crossed, we finished the lacing and measured it. 13.5” on one side and 12” on the other. Fuck it. Close enough.

The last big thing to do was to install the dome. This made me nervous. It was 5.5’ diameter and fairly delicate plexiglass. The way to do this was to stand on the ladder through the centre opening while my dad stood on the outside and gently reached it up to me. I had to lean across the roof with my tiptoes on the ladder to just barely reach it. Installing it then was the next trick. I had to get the springs and bolts secured to the centre ring. The springs are incredibly strong and it took all my power to pull them into place. It was also about 32°celsius, but the dome amplified this immensely. I was completely soaked in sweat after 5 minutes. I could barely hold onto my tools.

Lastly, we evened out and lined up the inner lining with the outer and secured it in place with the zip ties my parents brought. We then used tuck tape to secure on the seams and screwed the wall liner to the skirting.

Done. Hell ya. We got ourselves a yurt.




(Originally posted August 18, 2014)

Let’s Build Another Platform!

Needless to say, I was on a high from my success at the Evil Yurt Platform from Hell. If I can build a decagonal deck out of wood and blood and bolts then I can build anything! Including a relatively simple loft in our shop. As we will be living in the Yurt for a few months while the house is being built we’re going to need a place to store all of our crap.  Fortunately we have the large shop with a 16’ ceiling. At this point, the shop is pretty much wide open inside from the bathroom and big water storage tank. In order to maximize the space, create additional storage and to keep our personal items off the floor we decided to build an elevated platform. For this particular project there were no plans just me-brain-powers.

We had debated about the possibility of someday insulating the whole shop. It’d be pretty sweet, but also expensive. And after a recent storm, we realized it would be super difficult – and probably even more expensive than we would think.

A couple weekends ago there was a massive storm that came through Central SK. We were out at the land at the time. I had actually been talking to our new neighbour friend, Ray, when the sky suddenly turned black, the winds changed, and temperature dropped about 10°C. Dang, that didn’t look good. We went into the shop to watch the storm roll in. When the trees started bending sideways and hail started falling we thought, Crap, that really didn’t look good.



Being in a metal walled building, the sound of the wind and hail was deafening. Unfortunately we only had one set of ear plugs, so being the kind soul I am I gave them to my wife. I covered my ears and hoped for the best. After about 20 terrifying minutes, the storm passed, sun came out and heat returned. It was like it never happened. Little did we know that a tornado and baseball-sized hail had fallen and destroyed a couple farmyards only a few miles away. Yikes!

Anyways, the point being was that during the storm we had several gallons of rain water pouring in through the central roof seams and under the garage doors. Hmm, insulating and sealing this shop would suck. Maybe someday we’d go down that road. But we decided that it was not going to happen in a long time.

As I wanted to sheet the walls under the platform with OSB so not needing to insulate it saved some time. The OSB would allow me to build cabinets and shelves and hang my tools with a bit more ease.

As for the loft itself, we wanted to keep it simple 8’x24’ and 8’ up. I sheeted the walls in short order and set to work building the floor joists. We used 4x4x8 posts on footings spaced 4’ apart to support the loft and bolt it to the wall with heavy-duty 5” lag screws.

The challenge came to how the heck Darcie and I would hoist the 8’x8’ floor sections 8’ in the air and place the posts magically underneath and then miraculously bolt them to the wall, all without seriously injuring ourselves in the process.

As we discussed how we would do this, I had visions of dropping the structure on my foot, breaking/tearing my shoulder when it fell, or simply being crushed underneath it. None of these were desirable outcomes.

So here’s what we did: we walked the structure over like the Egyptians probably would have done and leaned it against the wall. I had screwed two 12” supports just under where we wanted it to sit on the wall. Using our big muscles (we’d lifted some heavy stuff in the past couple weeks and we were feeling quite jacked) we lifted the structure up along the wall. Darcie held it against her thighs (she’s stronger than she looks) as I grabbed the step ladder. She climbed into the back of the truck, which we had backed up to the support beams. With her in the truck bed and me on the ladder we were able to hoist it up as the edge rested gently on my little 2×4 wall supports. And just like that we eased the whole thing easily on the beams! Wow. That went surprisingly well.


The other two sections went up relatively easy as well. All I had left to do was bolt it to the wall with the 5” lag screws. This was going just peachy. I had put in 19 or 20 screws and they were going into place snuggly… except for the last one. That was when I decided to switch to a lower setting on my heavy duty 20volt Dewalt drill driver. WHAP! The drill caught, spinning 180° over and smacking me right above the eye. Oh, and I was standing on a ladder AND I wasn’t wearing my safety glasses. I put my head in my sleeve and it came out soaking in blood. Well, at least it was the last screw to go in.


(Originally posted August 18, 2014)

The Inaugural Shower(s)

The day came to setup the irrigation pump (for real this time). We had a clear plan and were eager to see this thing work. We had the picture in hand and Kent’s notes. Due to the weight of all the necessary equipment, we loaded everything into the back of the truck and drove it to the top of the hill (that led to the river). All the hoses went down first, then it was time to lift the beast down, which surprisingly felt lighter then It had previously (we chalked it up to the fact that in the last 14 days we had lifted heavier things and were therefore stronger than we once were). We set up everything as per the instructions and we were ready to plug this thing in. I was wearing shorts, a tank top and my straw hat – not exactly the best outfit for doing chores on the Land but I was just setting up a water pump… no big deal.  So Kent plugs it in and the pump starts flowing out the top valve (big time) and because I was closest to it Kent started yelling, “Quick turn it off! Close it!” So I reached over to grab the red handle and as I did the water turned a brown/black sludge and was showering over me. Just as I had started this inaugural shower, Kent unplugged the power. We stared at each other for a minute…….Kent smirking and me thinking, “What the f#@k.” The water was the stinkiest water I’d ever smelt and it was all over me. All I wanted to do was get rinsed off, but I wasn’t exactly allowed to just up and leave, because we still needed to get the stupid pump working. So I stayed down by the water as more of an advisor and watched Kent try again.

During this time he got a bit of the brown sludge on his hand and said to me, “Woah that stinks!” To which my response was, “Yup, tell me about it!” So we got the pump working and I headed for my next inaugural shower, which was first shower either of us had in the shop.  Even though the water was cold and slid under the curtain and onto the floor, at least I could wash off some of the stink, however I must say, that it lingered a bit… yucky yuck.


(Originally posted August 10, 2014)

Filling the Storage Tank

We decided it was time to get water into the water tank in the shop so we could utilize the bathroom and utility sink. We had gotten out there late and so thought we would have it run through the night. The well is approximately 350-450’ from the shop so we had to connect many hoses to get the water from the well to the tank. Kent starts opening up the brand new hoses that were left behind from the previous owners and we start connecting them together, getting closer each time. Great! This is the first time we figured out something on our first try!…so the hose slipped easily into the tank and water was pouring in.

We slept in the tent that night…which I never get a restful sleep in.  Not sure if it’s the darkness, the rain, the coyotes howling, or maybe just how uncomfortable I am in a sleeping bag that our French Bulldog insists on sharing with me..but I didn’t sleep very well this particular night either because I kept wondering if the water tank was going to overflow.  This was a very unlikely thing, but when you are in and out of your REM cycle, you start to convince yourself that water is pouring all over inside your garage.

It was 2 am when I woke Kent up to accompany me to the garage to check on the water (and get ear plugs)….he actually agreed to come with me…and so we were able to clearly see that the water tank was only 1/4 full and would in no way overflow within the next 4 hours.

And so the tank was half full in the morning, and we were pretty darn happy with ourselves.  The only thing I questioned, was Kent’s decision to open up brand new hoses, when there was a very long hose on a wheeling cart that would have been really nice and easy to use instead…he claimed he didn’t see it there…..well….that’s just the way things roll around here….creating our own path, which isn’t always the easiest, so once again we are reminded that we are amateurs… dwellers, trying to make it in the country:)…but loving every minute of it.


(Originally posted August 10, 2014)

Dreaded Yurt Platform

Now that we’d decided we were going to be Yurt livers (at least temporarily) and had purchased the said Yurt, we needed to build the platform in preparation for its arrival. I looked up a few plans for elevated decks online and thought it best that I just ask the supplier if they had a standard plan. It did not take long before I realized that building a decagonal deck out of 2x8s was going to be more challenging that I thought. I went to the hardware place and purchased the lumber that was recommended in the “Lumber Purchase List” – how handy! We took the plans and lumber out to the Land, laid everything out and looked over the plans. I must admit that I hadn’t looked that closely at them before. After a couple minutes of looking at them this way and that, cocking my head, squinting, holding it closer and further, I finally said, “What the f@#k is this!?” First of all, it was a decagram! Why would I build a decagram!? That has 10 sides! Why not just build a square?! Secondly, the plans were seriously lacking basic structural – there were 36” gaps between joists in some areas. I’m no construction expert, but I’m pretty sure that 16” is kid of standard spacing. Also, there was no step-by-step instructions on how to put it together – not like Ikea at all. It was essentially just the shoddy final plan… how to get there? Well, you figure it out. Although it took multiple extra trips to the lumber yard for extra wood, footings, deck supports, bolts and screws – I was able to complete the platform – a Decagram Platform, I might say – in four days. And it was level. And it was a goddamned decagram!





(Originally posted July 31, 2014)

What’s a Yurt

We debated for awhile about where and how we would live while we built our house next year. We want to be out on the land while it’s being built and it certainly won’t hurt to have the money from the sale of our house available to put towards the new place. We considered purchasing an old camper or RV or maybe even a cool Airstream. It would certainly have it’s perks: kitchenette, bed, insulated, heating and cooling features. Only thing was that the cheapest ones were $10,000+ and it’s highly unlikely that we’d use it after the few months we’d live in it.

Another possibility was to simply live in the shop. At 2400sqft and 16ft ceilings it’s definitely big enough. But we would have to insulate it all, build a small room for us to sleep in and it would also be where we store all of our crap and building supplies. We’d basically be squatting in our shop. We aren’t really going for the hobo-chiche vibe. And really it just felt pretty ghetto to me.

Third option (and most logical, I might add) was to live in a Yurt. Yes a yurt! A Mongolian hut – why hadn’t we thought of this before?! If you don’t know, a yurt was a traditional Mongolian home that could be erected in a day by nomadic herdsmen… We sorta nomadic herds people, we fantasized! It’s perfect. It is also super cool and very reasonably priced for a modern, prefabricated version. There’s several yoga and meditation retreats that use them due to their calming/peaceful/sexy nature.


Here’s what Flora Bora says about The Traditional Yurt:

“On the grassland steppes of central Asia, yurts or “gers” have been the primary shelter for nomadic herdsman for centuries. These circular wooden dwellings were traditionally covered with felted wool and skins. As the nomads lives revolved around the rhythms of nature, the yurt’s design was portable and able to withstand high winds and extreme temperatures. Even today, many pastoral families in Mongolia still prefer life in a yurt. There is a spirituality associated with living in a yurt; in its structure the whole universe is represented: The roof represents the sky and the smoke hole the sun. The hearth contains the five basic earthly elements of soil, wood, fire, metal, and water (metal in the grate and water in the kettle) and because there are no corners it is thought there is no place for evil spirits.”

Heck ya. Sounds good to me.

The Modern Yurt is a slight step-up from the traditional version. The walls are a lattice wood frame with post and beam supports to a central compression ring and 5-foot diameter dome window and vent in the middle of the roof. The yurt can be fitted with a wood burning stove and whatever else you might need depending on the size. Some people live in them year round but most use them as summer houses or cottages. Flora Bora Forest Lodging and Gardens at Emma Lake SK is a resort where all of their lodgings are modern yurts.


A couple weeks ago we had met with our potential home builders, who had recently completed their own cabin at Candle Lake, while building it they lived in (what else!) but a yurt.

We were recommended the Yurtz by Design from Surrey BC (there is also Pacific Yurts in Portland OR, but with the Canadian dollar lower + duty + shipping, the Canadian one made more sense). Normally I don’t trust companies that use a Z instead of an S, but I read their website and talked to the owner by phone before we placed our order. We decided to go with the mid-sized 15 foot diameter structure. Not too big but enough for a bed, small table, a couple chairs and a wood burning stove.

We’d like to be able to camp this winter for snowshoeing or cross country skiing so we thought it best to get it insulated and have the snow and wind kit added due to our weather in Saskatchewan. Plus with the recent tornado near our land we didn’t want to be watching our lovely yurt floating down the river some day.

I do get a good laugh when I tell people that we are going to live in a yurt for 6-8 months next year. Some people get a twisted up expression and ask, “Um, what’s a yurt?” and when I tell them they sort of roll their eyes and do the old ‘get a load of this weirdo’ facial expression.’ Others, the cool/intelligent ones, think it is pretty darn neat.

We want to have an experience out there and really, when are you going to have another chance to live in a yurt?

When we discussed the actual purchase of the yurt it just so happened the company had a 15 foot one that someone had purchased and never used. They were looking to sell it and we had just called at the right time. For about 30% off the price we were able to get exactly the yurt we wanted with an extra two windows included. It should be arriving in the next couple weeks. Now onto the task for building the foundation for it…


(Originally posted July 17, 2014)

Searching for a farm truck


If you own land you have to own a truck. There’s really no way around it. I think it is mandatory in Saskatchewan that if you want to be considered part of the rural community you simply must own a truck. Plus we only owned one small city vehicle, which I had already destroyed on one previous trip out to the land.

…..Ok so I was a little excited to go out to the land and might have been driving a bit too fast for a gravel road with some low spots in it. Sue me. I hit a particularly soft spot in the road and tore the underside of our bumper off… Although I didn’t realize it until after I’d gotten back onto the highway and heard a loud crash. I’d thought I’d blown a tire but in fact my bumper was just dragging on the pavement.  Anyways bottom line was we needed a truck. Our credibility as farmers depended on it.

Kijiji seemed like the most logical direction. Initially I was looking to spend no more than $1500. But pretty much all there was were a bunch of rusted, multi colored trucks with 400,000 kms on them. After talking to real live farmer (my wife’s cousin) he told us that we needed to be serious and get a decent truck, a Chevy or GMC, from the late 1990s or early 2000s. Yessir.

Prices were between $4000 and $5500. We probably looked at a dozen trucks- most were terrible. It’s hilarious how people write about their junk on kijiji. We thought we’d found the perfect truck: black, Chevy silverado 2003, reasonable mileage, loaded. The ad pretty much made it sound like a rare gem. When we went to look it, the seat was torn open with foam hanging out, the tires were totally bald, none of the dashboard lights were operational and you had to find the “sweet spot” by jiggling the keys like a madman to get it to start. But other than that it was perfect.

We found another one out in Warman that was actually real nice. Good shape, good mileage and appeared to be well taken care of. The seller’s cousin met us and let us take it for a test drive. Drove good. $4900 seemed reasonable. We called the seller and told him we’d take it. Darcie said for $4500. She drives a hard bargain – “first one to say something loses” is her bartering motto.

Guy said “ok I guess.”

Sweet we’ll meet you there tomorrow to pick it up. Darcie called me the next day and said that she called the guy to get his name for a bank draft and all he would consider taking was cash…… Umm do you understand what a bank draft is? It is cash.  Guaranteed to you. Nope not good enough for this guy. So Darcie and I made a last minute dash for the cash, and came up with the money in time to meet the guy at 6:30 like he had asked. Oh and he said we had to be there by 6:30 because he had someone else interested in the truck and was going to meet hime at 7:00 with cash in hand…. Bastard!

I arrived in Warman at 6:20 ready to make the transaction and drive away with our truck, however buddy was nowhere to be found. Darcie texted him and he said “sorry I’m stuck in traffic. I’ll be there in a few minutes.” Well a few minutes came and went. I’m not sure what kind or “traffic” jams they get in small town Warman but this was certainly the worst in Saskatchewan’s history. After 30 minutes of waiting I was getting pretty frustrated. But thought I might as well wait because he had someone else apparently coming at 7:00. I was standing beside the truck anyway.

Well 7:00 came and went too. Then 7:15. Guy texted and said “sorry traffic is really bad. I’m on my way.” Sure. You know if you don’t want to sell us the truck that’s fine, just don’t waste my time. After an hour of getting more and more angry I left. I’m not sure if this guy was playing us for fools or what, but the next morning the guy texted and said he would bring the truck in for us and that he was really sorry…..surprise surprise, that never happened either.  We just got screwed by Kijiji.

Fortunately a couple days later this Burgundy beaut came up…..burgundy with brown rust colored highlights around the rear wheel wells, decent mileage but a bit over priced, but whatevs let’s go check it out. We drove the beast and everything looked good. The seller was not a moron either. Just a nice middle aged man named Neal.

I told him we liked it, but the price was a bit high. I told him I had $4500 in my pocket.


Now we are getting legit!


(Originally posted July 10, 2014)


This ridiculously sweet outhouse overlooks the river. There’s a peep-hole to enjoy the view while sitting on the pot. We noticed several scrawls from canoers who stopped for a proper potty break and left their names inside.


(Originally posted July 10, 2014)