Making space


This was my first day helping out papa on our land this year. A good friend took our kids for the day and we went to work. Papa felled trees while I cleaned up the brush. We burn all the dead wood, roots and limbs which we can not use. The soft wood is put aside to make lumber for our house. We use all the hardwood for heating our home. It was wonderful to finally get my hands dirty. We had so much fun talking about the purpose of this new clearing which is needed for our disposal field. Meanwhile, across our drive was the monster destroying the forest for pulp.


We did take some time to walk through our land. When we clear we select cut leaving trees in place that we want to keep.  When we are done clearing for our needs which includes the house site, gardens and disposal field we will have just over an acre cleared, more than enough to sustain us. So far we have removed enough hardwood to heat our home for 3 years plus some we donated to a neighbor to heat their home. We also have enough softwood from our clearing for the structural components of our house.


We are very careful to respect fellow residence on our land, like this hornets nest. They are a beneficial part of the eco-system we wish to enhance here. They were very busy too.

It was truly a wonderful day being outdoors.

Today… Friday

Last night the wind blew hard and it poured rain all night. I love stormy weather. That feeling of,

“Batten down the hatches”

Everyone snuggled safely inside while outside is crazy and wild. I really love days when the fog is so thick, you can’t see anything out your window. I also love thunder and lightning. The way the trees light up when the lightning flashes. Yes, I so LOVE it all.

I get excited and nerves all at the same time. Last night was a reminder for me that it’s soon tropical storm season here in Cape Breton. They predict an active hurricane season this year.

stormI woke up to our trellus fallen over and broken.  The ground was covered in leaves, and raindrops hung from everywhere.

swingThis weather is a big reminder that Fall is around the corner. It’s also another reminder that school is about to begin. Our children will be going back into a public school. It’s a 2 room school that is located up the road from us. This is the very first time we have been excited to send them into the public school system. I will tell you all about this lovely school soon in the days to come.


With the reminder of our older children going back into school, I have been thinking a lot about Silas. He will soon turn 2 and he will have us all to himself for most of the day. I have been pondering some ideas for him with the Montessori environment in mind.

I can’t wait to find some extra time to set up his area into a space where he can learn, play and create.  This will be the first time that Silas will not have his older siblings around to entertain him throughout the day. Change will be good for him.

Handmade Soap with Local Organic Beer


We have been busy making a few batches of Beer soap for the up and coming markets.  Just down the road from us is the first Cape Breton Organic Brewing company. We decided to make some soap with their beer and they’ve turned out great. Big Spruce Brewing produce organic beers and also grow their own organic hops.

Some distinguishing  characteristics of beer soap are that it lathers well and is moisturizing for the skin. As a herb hops has several unique qualities, the two most prominent are its anti-bacterial preserving properties, which are important for making beer, and the other is its calming and slight sedative affects. These properties are only very slightly present in the soap due to the saponification process.

The last batch we are making with beer is our Favorite Shaven Soap. All 3 Beer soaps will be the perfect gift to give your Man for Christmas this year.

Not to worry, bathing in Beer soap will not leave you smelling like you spent the day at the Pub.


We love that Big Spruce Beer comes in these Amber glass jugs.


The soap shown above has Veg. Oil, Coconut Oil, Hemp Oil, Cocoa Butter and is scented with Bergamot essential oil.


The soap shown above has Veg. Oil, Coconut Oil, Hemp Oil, Cocoa Butter and is scented with Sweet Orange and Clary-sage essential oils. Ground walnut husk are added for a bit of grit.

Let’s make a difference

When making our soaps as well as all our other products we carefully source the ingredients and materials that go into making each item. The main factor that influences our choice is the environmental impact any ingredient may inherit through production or processing. With our soap we make sure not to use any Palm Oils or derivatives from this entire industry. The production of palm oil has become one of the worst scenarios for environmental degradation on our planet. Not only annihilating animal and plant species but destroying complete ecosystems. Natural habitat for indigenous tree species (even within so called protected areas) has been totally destroyed bringing whole species to extinction. Another concern is the continued destruction of what is left of the critically endangered Orangutangs and Sumatran Tigers natural habitat. The destruction is so vast it is difficult to even fathom it’s true extent.


Palm oil is found in many products including processed foods, cosmetics, cleaners, soaps and shampoos and is now used extensively as a bio-fuel. In many instances companies hide the use of palm oil by labeling it as a vegetable oil. There are better suited and more local alternatives for us to use in place of Palm Oil. We strongly support using Canadian produced Hemp Oil and Canola Oil. Besides becoming aware of the negative impacts that products carry we must also take action by only purchasing and using products which help create and sustain a viable natural environment and future.

Saturday Morning…..”out the front door”


Silas is so excited to explore the yard and garden.  Our older children were still sleeping so Silas had us all to himself.


A heavy dew settled on everything during the night. The air is much cooler after several hours of heavy rain yesterday.  Everything is so quiet and calm early in the morning when “suddenly” we hear a  strange “HOWL” in the distance. Not sure what it was, maybe a coyote.


Kitty and Tuttie (our dog) play tag and have mock fights as they always do. Looks like the cat knows the dog is not allowed in the garden.

aSilas discovers one of his favorite toys and dips his hands into the cold standing water. We love days like this, Late Summer weather is crisp, not as many black flies or mosquitoes as the days grow shorter.

Off-Grid Campaign

In 2002 when Tracey and I envisioned our collaborative business venture (which became Turn A New Leaf)  we never imagined that some day it would be set in the beautiful woods of Cape Breton. Through many trials and tribulations this business venture blossomed and underwent several transitions through the course of time. The most important transition for us was to downsize and leave the hectic pace of city life behind.  Our decision to downsize gave us a chance to focus more emphasis towards raising our children and the time to engage new and better strategies towards a sustainable business.


With a lot of effort and hard work we’ve made some important advances since arriving in Cape Breton 3 Years ago. We reestablished our business here with great success.  I’ve introduced a new line of natural children’s furniture which has had a mind of it’s own and is doing better than we could have imagined. We acquired our own 10 acre paradise last year and we now have a building in place which will soon become the creative workspace for the woodworking aspect of Turn A New Leaf.


We still have many monumental tasks ahead of us and we will take each one in stride. Our most pressing concern now is to move the woodworking shop from the dank basement to the new building. This transition will only be possible if a power source is in place for the necessary tools. We’ve looked at all the options available to us and we have come to the conclusion that an Off- Grid power source will best serve our needs. Our biggest hurdle now is the funding necessary for this endeavor. Up to this point we have never borrowed money (whether personally or for business) and have always lived within the means available to us. Since we do not currently have full funding within our means we have decided on the following campaign. Please follow the link below to learn more.




Under Attack

Once again our mountainside will be under attack, the property bordering the south side of our driveway will be clear-cut in the coming weeks.


It’s a bit ironic that just prior to hearing the news from the neighbor about his intentions to clear-cut I’d spent several hours grading and spreading gravel on our drive.  Now the driveway will most likely be transformed into a mucky unsightly mess with the heavy equipment going through. In the above photo most if not all the trees to the right will be cut down, forever changing the tranquility of our entrance.


From a birds-eye view atop the tallest tree above our building sight you can see the property that will be impacted. The bottom red line is the neighbors property line at the edge of our drive. The red line through the center of the photo follows the forest canopy just above Rice Brook. Everything between the red lines will be clear-cut, this is the north slope of Rice Brook watershed. More than likely all the softwood on the other side of Rice Brook will also be cut. (the dark green trees above the red line up to the buildings in the distance) ….. for a clearer view click on the photo …..


The view from our windows will be drastically altered once the trees are gone. The land drops quickly a couple hundred feet down the mountain so we may gain a broader view of our lower surroundings, however I tend to believe more of an unsightly tangle of brush, muck and shattered trees will be in store as our future view, not to mention the increased exposure to the wind and elements.

Time keeps on slipping

It’s been a musical week with Kieth Mullins having a house concert at their new place on Hunters Mountain last Friday and Ian Foster having one at a neighbors house in Middle River last night. Both were wonderful and a nice respite from the work and a great chance to mingle with neighbors.

We  have a new addition to the family.  A red lady that boasts having 43 horses packed under her hood along with an antique back blade. Both these will help to speed up progress at the building sight.


With some new draft pins, a new center link, new bolts and pins the back blade is ready for some serious work. My back is feeling better already and the blisters on my hands are slowly disappearing, I hope I don’t turn into a softy.


The garden plot for our neighbor on Hunters Mountain is finally in. Hanna and Liam helped her yesterday, along with the occasional overbearing instructions from me. The rain expected from Hurricane Andria should help everything in the garden sprout up.


Spring is in full swing now and it’s hard to believe that we are fast approaching the second week of June already. Time slips by too fast and several bureaucratic delays have virtually halted work at the building site. In the meantime we can enjoy the wonderful blossoms of late spring and the whirring of June-bugs in the evening air.