There could be squatters on our property! There might be an entire family of people living in the woods at the far end of our land. We don’t know that such a thing is happening, but that’s not to say that it’s not possible. We might have such a thing.

Here’s the back story.

We own 150 acres. I know. It’s fantastic! I have to pinch myself regularly to remind myself of how lucky we are. It’s like our own personal conservation area. If our acreage were in Manhattan we’d be worth like a ba-zillion dollars! But it’s not, and we’re surrounded by bush and hunt camps and an undeveloped provincial park, which is the only reason we could afford such a wonderful chunk of land.

I’ll always remember the time Michelle and I walked down a lane at the east end of the property when we were just thinking about buying this place. We simply couldn’t get our heads around this concept. 150 acres. Our lot in the city was 40’ x 108’. We had to drive to a community garden plot in order to grow a few vegetables. Then we found and bought this place. The wonders never cease!

When we moved here I explored the land a lot. I also ventured out a lot for firewood. There had been a gypsy moth infestation of the oaks several years before we bought the place. There was a lot of dead oak and it’s an amazing wood to use for firewood so I cut a lot of them. I tended to go into an area and cut, and then haul the logs out on sleds in the winter to where I could get to them in the spring with the truck.

In the last couple of years though I’ve been tending to cut wood just around the house. As we’ve expanded the gardens for the CSA I am trying to push back the woods. The darn trees just keep popping up but I keep taking them down so that more sunlight reaches the gardens. Most of the trees near the house are poplar. I used to be a bit of a snob about poplar when I had so much oak to cut. But the dead oaks are all down now and I realize that there’s nothing wrong with softwood like poplar, you just need to burn more of it for the same amount of heat.

The CSA is the other reason we don’t get out in the woods as much anymore. It just takes up every minute of every day it seems. Last spring I intended to get out to a spot where I had cut some maple in the spring of 2013. I had cut the maple into 1” thick discs and my daughter Katie and her husband sanded them to use as the bases for their wedding centerpieces. But with the increase in membership in the CSA I just kept focused on the gardens and I didn’t get out to the woods. I wanted to walk the property a number of times this past summer but I just kept focused on the gardens. Then this past fall, that was going to be my time to walk in the woods. But …. there was just so much cleaning up and organizing and a million little jobs that needed to be done that I hadn’t had time for in the summer, and presto, my fall was gone.

When my daughters were home over the holidays there was talk about a walk in the woods but, well holidays being what they are, more calories were consumed than expended. This is when I began theorizing that there could in fact be a family of squatters on our property. They could have been there for a year and we wouldn’t even know about them. We do have a gate on the road on the east end of the property. This was the road put through by the township in the 1930s to circumvent the floating bridge that horses and buggies and cars kept falling off of into the bog. I have heard of “squatter’s rights” – that if you live someplace long enough, and no one tells you to leave, well, it’s like, you can stay. Okay, I think I’m making this up, but it was a fun story.

Finally the other day Jasper the Wonder Dog and I ventured out into the bush to see what was happening on our property. And low and behold it was the same as it ever was. No squatters. No meteor impact craters. Just some downed trees and limbs.

We went down to check the status on the maple I had left near a swampy area. Even 18 months later it was in great shape. I shall return with a chainsaw and cut it into more manageable lengths so I can haul it out. We finally have some snow on the ground so I can get to it with a sled.

Jasper had a blast. It was like he had pent up “run like a crazy dog through the woods” demand. He just couldn’t run and jump and prance and put his nose to the ground and follow smells more if he tried. At one point he got up high on this rocky ridge above me and sat looking down at me, kind of like when Snoopy used to do this whole vulture on the doghouse thing. I made some comment to him, something along the lines of him considering himself king of the world, at which point he leapt into the great void, came tearing down the slope, over some ice at which point, as he always does, he plowed into me like a linebacker then turned and sprinted back up the ridge before I could show him any affection. It’s like he was saying, “You can pet me at home, but in the meantime I’ve got places to go!”

Jasper's-eyes

As I stand in the forest I must say the wonder of where I live never leaves me. We tried long ago to get away from the whole “we own 150 acres” idea. We consider ourselves temporary caretakers of this land now. It will be here long after we’re gone. I believe as long as electricity poles never come down our road it will continue to be the quiet, isolated, enchanted place it is.

So there was no family of humans living down our road. I do know a number of families of beavers that love to turn the forests into fields around several of our ponds. I can show you the place in the hemlock grove where deer seem to love to hunker down at night. They leave impressions in the snow where they slept. I think our property is just full of families of all shapes and sizes. It is simply a magical place.

I should resolve to walk the property at least once a month to keep my eye on it. But I won’t. I know come April that’s unlikely to happen. I’m thinking it’s time to buy one of those drones with the video cameras so I can collapse after a day in the garden and watch my property on TV. And yes, that must sound like such a waste to someone living in the city who is longing to live in the woods. All I can say is ‘save your money’ because if have to earn an income and you grow food at the scale I do at the age I am it is just not compatible with regular long leisurely walks through the property. It just makes it all the more special when I finally do.

aerial view