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How We Got Here

I hate this Fucking Land!

It was a particularly hot day when I threw my rake across the dirt and screamed out these words. The sun was beating down on my sweating skin and drawing my patience to a brittle end. The unrelenting dry clay soil under my rake was puffing up in stifling clouds of dust making it hard to breathe and see. It was a moment of sheer frustration and anger and it ended up with me in tears.

We had bought the land a year earlier in what seemed like a good idea at the time. Find land where we could build a carpentry workshop so my husband and I could work on creative projects. We had no idea where this would take us.

The idea came to us on a highway. A long, wide, boring highway that we drove along as we traveled back from a family cottage in the Kawarthas. We had just spent the weekend building a screened porch on a cottage shared by many cousins. The project had gone well but as natural problem solvers, we knew we could do better with our own tools and workshop.

But we had no space of our own. We were renting an apartment in the city and visiting my parent's house on Lake Erie. Neither place had the room to expand into a woodworking zone that would suit our needs.

It just so happened that the land across the street from my parent's house was for sale. The area was essentially just a big open field with an existing garage off to one side. It seemed perfect.

In a typical small town move, my mother negotiated the sale talking directly to the owner at the old age home where he lived. Having known him since she was a child, and experienced in bargaining in markets around the world, she was the best person for the job.

A few days later we were proud owners of 1 acre of land.

Land that would prove to be made of hard clay, infested with anthills and milk snakes, and had a swampy "creek" running through the middle.

At this point, we had also determined that the garage was not part of the sale. It was currently being rented to our neighbours with a 21 year lease and they were not interested in walking away from it. The lease still had 14 years left on it.

That meant we had to build. But when we explored building permits we were told that we couldn’t just build a workshop. We had to build a proper dwelling.

And what had started as a simple project to build a workshop quickly turned into an epic adventure that would change our lives.

At the tender age of 32, I discovered a compulsive need to build, design, and create. And a great deal of this creative energy has been poured into the land.

We initially thought of a simple prefab loft above a garage but with every beautifully designed building I looked at my mind was filled with a thousand possibilities of every shape and size. And as I learned more, I knew we had to build something that was as environmentally friendly as we could afford. That instinct has only grown stronger over the years.

Eventually, our simple idea morphed into a custom-designed 2 bedroom, 1 and 1/2 bath cottage above a garage and workshop. But never to be dissuaded from my grand plans, the cottage was built as phase 1, the phase 2 addition will come later when we move down here full time.

And the land? We knew nothing about landscaping or soil or trees. We bought a field of clay, Haldimand Clay as it is known around here. Clay that is swampy in the spring and fall and hard as rock in the summer. But also clay that is has historically proven to support farmland, fruit trees and vineyards.

Over 19 years of literally blood, sweat, and tears, and also of dreams and unforgiving physical reality, we have learned how to transform this field into something worth celebrating. We have finally created The Red Door Garden.

We are still learning. Every. Single. Day. So I thought, perhaps others would like to hear about this crazy ride. We are not perfect. We make mistakes and compromises. But we are dedicated to this land and we want to make it as sustainable as possible.

This blog is a place for us to tell the story of our journey, the joys and the struggles to create a space of our own that allows for us to appreciate nature and let our creativity to flourish.

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