Thursday, January 21, 2010

The road that makes my soul rejoice

I was driving home from the second day of the Growing Your Farm Profits (GYFP) workshop that I attended in Markdale, and had tears in my eyes from the winter beauty that I was seeing on the Markdale road. This is Grey Road 12 which runs east-west between Highway 10 and Highway 6, and I think driving on it is what partly sold me on buying a farm in this area back in November of 2009.

Those who know me know that I hate driving. At least I do in the GTA. But out in the country, driving is a completely different activity, especially if you're on a road as beautiful as Grey Road 12. It winds around and up and down the hilly escarpment landscape so you're constantly being presented with a new vista of trees, fields and hills, all lit differently by the sun as the road twists and turns. And on this day, all the trees had a thick coating of diamond snow from the previous day's snow storm that perfectly outlined all their branches. The deciduous trees looked especially gorgeous, all flocked with snow, their limbs striking in their clarity. This is why women wear mascara ;P

Every time I drive home to the farm, I feel my soul rejoice. Despite all the responsibilities and costs of owning and caring for this farm (see previous post), I absolutely love being here. I know in my heart that I am where God wants me to be. The landscape reminds me constantly of the beauty and wonder of His creation, in every season. Whenever I start to feel overly burdened by the bills that need paying, or plans that need to be made to ensure bills keep being paid, I just look around me and remember why I'm here. Out here, I am in the midst of life, and the business of life. For me, there can be no higher calling.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A frosty new year

It's good to be back at the farm after a little jaunt into New York to get my fill of all things metropolitan. I do have much to get caught up on so holidays are definitely over!

First priority for January is heat...how to get it, maintain it and not go bankrupt in the process :( If you've read my previous posts, you'll know that I've had fuel oil woes due to a drip from my oil furnace's burner which resulted in an order from the TSSA to get the ground tested for oil contamination. The hardest thing about that is trying to figure out who to trust, and not to lose my shirt in the process. Since the process requires certified engineers and lab testing, the cost of the oil drip is over $1500. And it turns out that my oil furnace isn't venting to code, and in fact, the structure of my house makes it impossible to vent an oil furnace to code (at least not without poking a hole in my foundation walls, which could result in major structural issues if done improperly). So I have to bite the bullet and replace the house's oil furnace with a propane one (which doesn't require a 25+ foot chimney for venting, like an oil furnace does). And to think I thought I was protecting myself enough when I required the furnace and fuel tank to pass inspection to close the purchase of the property. The chimney might have been installed to code 10-20 years ago, but certainly doesn't pass now...but for some reason the furnace inspector thought the idiosyncrasies of the house itself made it acceptable to route the chimney the way it was done. Unfortunately, the TSSA doesn't agree, and it would cost me too much money to try and get a variance on the chimney to make it ok. And I'm too freaked out by the thought of future fuel oil drips to want to stick with an oil furnace at this point.

Sigh...once you have a house, you realise that expenses are in the thousands from now on. So let's count the costs of heating my house within my first year of ownership: existing oil furnace ($550 for a tank of fuel oil in October and $1500+ due to the fuel drip), new wood stove ($2200 for stove & installation and $540 for wood), new propane furnace ($4500 for the furnace and another $1000 for the propane tanks and fuel). Grand total: $10,290

Granted, I need to count about $7000 of that as capital costs that will repay themselves in energy efficiencies over my lifetime on this property, but it feels a lot like a kick in the teeth right now.

But I also have to consider the positives for the future. Fortunately, I already had an EcoEnergy audit done on the house so I'll be able to access some government grant money for my furnace 'upgrade' to a high efficiency propane burner (which should bring me fuel savings over time). And I'll have gotten that new furnace pretty much at cost since the furnace contractor is trying to make up for passing the previous chimney system. And my real estate agent is also throwing some money into the pot to make things right, so hopefully the whole furnace replacement will only cost me $3000 out of pocket once all's said and done. I don't regret my original decision to buy a wood stove (though its installation is what precipitated all my furnace woes!) because in the future, I should be able to harvest all my winter wood from the wood lot on my land instead of having to buy it in. So with the wood stove doing the bulk of the home heating, I can hopefully get away with buying in less than 1000L of propane each winter.

I have also gotten my basement insulated and am replacing my upstairs windows and making sure both my attics have optimum insulation (all EcoEnergy grant eligible renovations). Again, in the long run, all of this should make this house more energy efficient, and therefore cost less to heat in the winters. Here's to hoping that all these 'efficiencies' are real and actually do pay off over the years! If not, anyone have a potential sugar daddy they can introduce me to? ;P