Workaway #4

[Matilda]

For the past 10 days, we’ve been on another Workaway experience – this time in Black Creek (near Saratoga Beach). We’ve been staying with a lovely family and helping out with gardening, painting and cooking, among other little things. So far we are 4 for 4 on great Workaways and we’re hoping to keep a good streak going! For me it’s been really nice to be so close to the sea again as that is what I love the most. You can take the girl away from the coast, but you can’t take the coast out of the girl! That’s how the saying goes, right?

Black Creek is a small town with a grocery store, a gas station, a couple of liquor stores and one pizza place. It’s a 20 minute (or so) drive from Campbell River if you go north, or Courtenay if you go south. While being here we’ve been lucky enough to see several bald eagles which is so cool! They are so majestic. Seeing one soar just above you is an experience that pauses time for a little bit and puts you in the now.

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The sunsets here are pretty ridiculous! We’ve enjoyed buying ice cream at the Pacific Playground Resort before heading down to the water to watch for wildlife. Other than eagles, we’ve seen plenty of blue herons, a couple of sea lions, and jumping fish.  No whales, though… maybe one day…

We’ve also made a couple of four legged friends while being here. There’s Dharma, the black labrador, and Smudge, the one eyed cat. Dharma loves people, sticks and swimming. Smudge loves sleeping.

On one of our days off we went on a day trip to Elk Falls, which is a provincial park just outside Campbell River. Elk Falls was probably the coolest waterfall we’ve seen so far on this trip AND there was a suspension bridge going across the canyon! I much preferred this bridge to the Capilano one as it wasn’t as busy. The park has a looped trail that goes past the much smaller Deer Falls, as well as the medium-sized-but-not-as-cool Moose Falls. There is, however, a really nice body of water called the Dolphin Pool just beneath Moose Falls. The water is really clear and blue, and, if the weather allows it, we’d love to go back for a swim.

We’ve also tried out busking in Campbell River. There’s a farmers market on Sundays so we went in to try our luck. When we arrived there were already a couple of acts busking in the parking lot outside the market so we had to start out a little further away next to the road. The traffic meant that not a lot of people could hear us and therefore did not stop to listen. We did however meet a really nice musician named Max who gave us a lot of useful tips regarding busking and stayed to listen to us play. When a spot opened up down by the market, we went and made a few more dollars. At the end of the day, we had made $80. All of which will go straight to gas…

We’re now about to head out on a 6 day roadtrip to Tofino and back. We can’t wait to see some of the western parts of the island!

Just a few more pictures from our stay in Black Creek:

 

See you on the other side of Tofino?

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Workaway #3: Building An Earthship!

[Matilda]

You may have noticed a lack of updates lately. This is because we’ve spent a significant amount of time off grid. For the past two weeks we were at our third Workaway experience where we helped a lovely family build an Earthship! This was also in Blaeberry – only a 12 minute drive from the buffalo ranch. What is an Earthship? Well, I could try to take you through it, but you’d probably be better off reading about it HERE!

This Workaway was different to our previous ones for a few different reasons:

  1. More work. Wintertime at our previous locations meant work was a little slow. Here, we worked 5 hours a day!
  2. Our hosts were a family. It was definitely a change of pace to stay with a family with kids.
  3. We were already well established in the area and therefore didn’t spend as much time “in the house” after work was done.

Our main task was to help build/insulate walls in the Earthship’s living area. We did this with cob which is a mixture of clay, water, sand and straw. It takes a day or so to really get the hang of working with cob, but once you do it’s like clockwork. We started out building walls. The ones facing the outside were decorated with bottles to allow more light in and for decoration:

Earthship bottle wall!
Moa built the lower half of this bottle wall and I the upper!

 

In our last few days, we began to cover the tyre walls. The Earthship’s outer walls are tyres packed with dirt which are then covered with different materials depending on their location. Inside they are covered with cob. This took a bit of finesse as they should be made as even as possible. After the cob, they will eventually be covered with some other materials before being completely finished.

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The result of a day’s work covering tyres!

 

This type of work is very rewarding. It gets you focused and makes time pass really quickly. It gives you something to look at when the day is over and think “that’s what I made today”. And last but not least, it feels great to know that we’ve helped this wonderful family get one step closer to moving into their dream home.

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Photo by Jair

The family we stayed with was Jair and Mel and their two kids, Nova and Asher. Jair’s dad Tom also lives on the property and helps out in the Earthship. Though we were out and about quite often we really enjoyed the times we got to sit down and have a meal with the whole family. There was a great atmosphere and every person we met there was genuine and kind.

The family home, up until the completion of the Earthship, is a yurt. A yurt is essentially a big round tent. The yurt is completely solar powered so while we could happily charge our phones, we had to refrain from charging larger devices such as laptops. The water comes from a nearby creek! The family had a great name for going on a water collection mission: AQUA FORCE! We got to go with Tom, Nova and Asher on an Aqua Force mission when the family had a big bonfire.

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Left to right: Asher, me, Nova and Moa! Photographed by Tom.

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Our last day was yesterday and the family sent us off on our way with a big waffle breakfast. It was absolutely delicious. With our tour having two dates confirmed in Golden, I’m sure we’ll see them again soon! And if not, we’ll want to come back to see how work on the Earthship progresses. We definitely recommend you guys to follow these guys on Facebook! Check out Simply Not Square HERE.

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Sunset at “Inshallah”

A catch-up: We’re back in Canada!

[Moa]

Alright, time to get you guys up to speed – We’re back in Canada (and have been since the middle of February, oops)! 

I’d like to say we have a good reason for not updating this blog very well the last few weeks but truth is, life kinda just got in the way. And we’re great at procrastination. Jokes aside though, it’s been really nice to just kind of be and live in the moment and settle in. This blog post will be kind of a quick summary and catch-up of the last few weeks, with a bunch of pictures going with it! 

On February 11th we left the US and Chicago and flew to Calgary, Canada. We stayed there for three days before boarding a Greyhound bus west and set off into The Rockies. Since February 14th we have been staying at the Rocky Mountains Buffalo Ranch located in the middle of Columbia Valley about 20 minutes outside the small town of Golden. If we thought we were remote when we stayed in Kenmore outside of Ottawa, then this is a whole new level. It’s basically mountains, forest, and us. And it’s wonderful. 

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A very welcoming driveway!
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Mount Hedberg, as seen from the ranch. Pretty sure there’s been some Swedes here at one point…

At the ranch we are helping Leo, our host, with running his Airbnb business and daily chores in exchange for food and accommodation. We clean the house and the cabin that’s being rented out, chop wood, drive the snow mobile to and from the mailbox and shovel tons of snow. It’s awesome.

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Daily snowmobile run!
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Snowshoe adventure by the buffalo pastures
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Snowshore adventure by the Blaeberry River
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A snowy ranch!

The buffalos are all taken care of by Leo and is not something we help out with, mainly because we would most likely get charged by them if we entered their pastures. So no thanks. They are super cute though and are beautiful creatures. At the moment there are 18 animals here and the herd is lead by the alpha male Chester Jr – a massive bull who’s apparently only going to get bigger! 

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Leo and buffalos

A few weeks ago we attached my GoPro camera to the snowmobile and Leo tried to get the buffalos to chase him so we could get some good footage. However, one thing we’ve learnt here is that the buffalos won’t do anything you want them to do so they mostly just calmly walked around and were not up for running at all. I still managed to get some cool shots, which you can see below! 

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The only downside to being here is that we don’t have a car so leaving the ranch can’t really be done spontaneously to go to town. My mom asked me when we were talking on Skype if we couldn’t just “take the bus”. Nope, there are no buses here! If we want to get to town we either arrange to get a ride from a neighbour or friend or we hitchhike in. Luckily for us, we’ve already gotten to know some amazing people around here. Everyone is so friendly! 

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A casual walk in the neighbourhood
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And a snowier version…

So how does life look for us nowadays?
Well, it’s pretty quiet and relaxed. Since it’s the low season here on the ranch (in the summer Leo rents out some cabins that are not suitable for winter as well as running a daily buffalo tour) we have a lot of free time to spend as we want. Any chores we might have for the day are usually dealt with in the morning or noon and late afternoon and evenings are almost always free. Since Leo is also a musician we’ve ended up having several jam sessions in his cabin! We’ve also been to a local jam night a few times in town at a great place called The Wolf’s Den and are hoping to get to play there again in the near future.

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Jam session at a friend’s house in Golden!

To my personal joy there’s a climbing gym in town which I’ve signed up for, so a few times a week I go climbing which is so much fun. I always feel better when I can climb regularly and I’m really hoping that when the snow melts away I’ll get the chance to go on a few climbing adventures outdoors. 

What’s next? 
Well, the long-term plan is that we will be staying here at the ranch until the end of April. After that we don’t know yet, we’ll decide that when we get there. In regards for a plan for the next few days – I’M GOING SKIING! TODAY! 
Since I love skiing and have always loved skiing, it would have felt like a crime to go to Canada and not ski. This is however not something I share with Matilda, so I’ve booked a ski trip for myself starting today. I’m going to Lake Louise! I’ll be staying there until Friday for three full days of skiing and I couldn’t be more excited. 

So in terms of the blog, here’s what we’re gonna do. There’s gonna be a post about the time we spent in Calgary which I will try to get up in the next few days. When I get back from my skiing trip I am also making it my mission to make a vlog where we can show you the ranch and what we do with our time at the moment! It’s so hard to try to sum it all up in words sometimes and it’s a great way for us to show you the incredible scenery around here. There’s also going to be a post coming up soon about a spontaneous roadtrip we took this weekend to Yoho National Park and Emerald Lake with our friend Matt, a post about when we went dogsledding (which is also thanks to Matt) as well as a post where I tell you all about my ski adventures.

Life is good! 

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Friends on the farm

[Matilda]

I love taking photos and when I finished upper secondary school I bought a Canon EOS 500D for my graduation money. In the past few years that I’ve lived in London I haven’t taken it out as much as I would’ve liked. When Moa and I decided to go to Canada I made a promise to use my camera more. I would be stupid not to! So for this blog post I thought I’d introduce you to some new friends we’ve made recently. They’re pretty awesome. In no particular order of course…

Princess

How do I begin to describe Princess? Well. Princess likes food. A lot. Princess also likes being cuddled. A lot. And Princess loves milk. A LOT. She also likes to tell you when she needs something from you. Which is all the time. It really doesn’t matter if food was just served or if there is still milk in the bowl. Princess needs you to pick up the pace and do what she wants! She has made a habit out of listening out for my alarm in the morning, as my room is the closest to the cat food. Forget about snoozing. Once that alarm goes off, she doesn’t stop until I’m out of bed and preparing breakfast! If I do try to snooze, she will stand next to my bed and just stare at me. Here you should also know that my bed is quite low which means she is at perfect eye level for me when I lay down.

Princess is the cuddliest cat you’ll meet – there’s no way you’ll be able to sit on the couch without her coming in to keep you company. This is my favourite picture of Princess:

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It’s like an old beautiful painting. I hope it may one day hang in a prestigious art museum somewhere.

Crazy Cat

This kitty has a very appropriate name and there’s really no way you can ever tell what she’s thinking. Crazy Cat does not let you pet her unless it’s her choice and this happens very rarely. I did think we had a good thing going for a couple of days after we arrived here, but then she suddenly changed her mind. She’s really a one man cat who at the end of the day comes back to Hans for cuddles. Crazy Cat doesn’t meow like Princess does but she makes a lot of other noises. At one point I was almost convinced there was a small Danish child running around the house. She plays with one toy only and seems at her happiest and most talkative at play time. Crazy also has a weird habit of randomly grabbing onto you. For example, this morning as I was walking down the stairs, she was sat on one of the piedestals at the bottom and reached out to stick her claws in my hoodie. I think it was her way of saying “food now, please”.

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PJ

PJ, PJ, PJ… We’ve definitely cursed PJ a few times. With love of course! She is a very determined lady and incredibly smart. I would love to properly get to know her from horseback, but it’s a little too snowy and cold to have a good riding session at the moment. Especially considering I don’t really know the terrain here very well! PJ is the leader of the pack and knows all the tricks in the book. Every night when we go out to feed the horses, it’s a constant guessing game as to what mood she will be in and whether we’ll be able to get hold of her. Our current trick is to go out a bit later in the evening so that she’s hungrier and more keen on getting food… it has worked so far! But there are of course a few factors that could easily spoil even this seemingly bullet proof plan:

  • If it’s very cold outside.
  • If it’s snowing a lot outside.
  • If it’s very windy outside.
  • If PJ thinks we’re up to something sneaky.

This horse is beautiful though and I can tell that she’s a great companion. Whether you’re on the ground or on horseback, you’ll be having some discussions with this one, but once it pays off there’s no better feeling!

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Snowman

Snowman is the gentleman in the stable. He’s very chill and lets PJ do her thing and be the boss. He doesn’t mind. And yes, every time we go out to greet Snowman we do get the song from Frozen stuck in our heads. It’s inevitable. Unfortunately Snowman doesn’t get too excited about posing for photos so I don’t have that many. Of the two horses, he is the one who hangs back and decides that eating hay is definitely more important than checking out the human idiots calling him over from the fence. I mean, it’s not even a guarantee they’ll have treats. I did try to get some nice photos the other day. Turns it out it takes a bit of skill to photograph a white horse on a bright day in a landscape full of snow…

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Chiquita

Ooooh, Chiquita. We love Chiquita so much. Like, you have no idea. I’m not usually a dog person myself, but she has stolen my heart! She’s old and her joints are a bit stiff but she still gets SO EXCITED about going for a walk. She spends most of her time outdoors as she’s originally from the Canadian North. Upon leaving the house in the morning, we always bring her outside with us, and she always looks disappointed when we head off in the direction of the horses. Now, I don’t know what she’s thinking, but it’s probably something along the lines of “those big stupid moose are getting too much attention”.

When we finally do get around to taking her out for a walk, it’s like she’s ten years younger for a few moments. The first couple of times we took her out, we ran the first few meters and jumped around with her just because it made her so darn happy. Now it has just become the way we start every walk. She starts running before us and then looks back over her shoulder to make sure we’re still with her. She unfortunately doesn’t make it very far before she has to slow down but we can tell she loves it.

This doggo is adorable and if I could take her with me everywhere, I would!

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As you can see, we are in some pretty good company out here. Friends on four legs are the best friends! Moa will be with you very soon for another update. I don’t know what she’s planning on sharing with you, but let’s be real… it’s not going to be as adorable as this post.

Temporary farm life in Kenmore

[Moa]

Alright so, turns out that a consistent blogging is quite difficult after all – SORRY! We’re going to do our best to get you all up to speed and keep these blog posts coming a little bit more frequently.

So, where are we and what have we been up to?
The past 2 weeks we have stayed at a small farm in Kenmore, a tiny town situated outside of Ottawa, Ontario, where we are helping out in exchange of accommodation and food. We arranged all this through a website called Workaway.info, which I can highly recommend to anyone who are looking to travel on a budget. As described by Workaway themselves;

Workaway.info holds a database of families, individuals or organisations in an extensive range of different countries who have registered with us and are looking for volunteer help in a huge range of different fields. From painting to planting, building to babysitting and shopping to shearing, Workaway.info aims to introduce working travellers and language learners to like minded hosts, without having to pay expensive agency fees. 

So in exchange for accommodation and food we work an approximate of 5 hours/day 5 days a a week, which is a pretty amazing deal if you think about it. The “work” is usually very rewarding and doesn’t feel as work at all because you are always learning new things. We are staying with our host Hans, a lovely German gentleman who moved to Canada about 9 years ago. Our days consist of helping him with his horses, cats, dog, wood stove and general chores around the farm which might need doing. 

We first arrived here on January 2nd after taking the train from Toronto the same morning. Hans picked us up from the train station a little later than originally planned (our train had been delayed due to “extremely cold weather”) and then took us to a local diner for some well-deserved pizza. After refuelling ourselves we kept driving to his home right on the edge of Kenmore, Ontario, which is about 40 minutes outside of Ottawa. Hans’ home is absolutely amazing and I felt at home almost instantly. We each got our own room and share the farm with Hans, the cats Princess and Crazy Cat, the dog Chiquita (the cutest and fluffiest dog we’ve ever seen), and last but not least the horses PJ (Plain Jane) and Snowman. I’ll let Matilda introduce you further to the animals in the next blog post along with the photographs she’s been taking of them – but let’s just say they all have their strong individual personalities! 

 

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Our temporary home in Kenmore, Ontario

A regular day on the farm:
We normally get up around 8.30am for some breakfast, to then get dressed and go out to the horses for the first chores of the day. The morning routine consists of bringing in wood for the house (the house is mainly kept warm using wood stoves), cleaning the stable of horse poop, giving the horses hay, fill up their water and fire up the wood stove in Hans’ workshop. We usually finish this around 10.30 and then we might take Chiquita for a little walk. During the day Hans is working from his office in Ottawa and he usually leaves while we are out in the stable. 

After the morning chores have been finished we pretty much have free reigns until the evening, as long as we keep the fires going in the stoves. Sometimes we might be given additional tasks to fix during that day, such clearing the path to the hot tub which is standing in the garden… 

Our chores start again in the evening where we once again feed the horses, clean their hooves and make sure that the fire is still going in the workshop.

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Matilda and PJ
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Our darling Chiquita on an afternoon walk in the snow

The rest of the day is usually spent quite relaxed. There are no stores or restaurants or anything at all really nearby, so we are really bound to the farm since we don’t have a car – but I don’t mind this at all. In a way, it’s very therapeutic. After feeling like I was running through the marathon that was 2017 it’s a well-needed break where I get to slow down and just be. Allowing yourself to not be productive is sometimes the best thing you can do I think. I haven’t felt like I’ve been able to do that for so long. 

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Hanging out with my new friend Princess

We’ve also spent all this extra free time on our music writing new songs and looking over our repertoire from the last few months because we have a gig coming up next weekend! That’s right, right here on the farm we’re staying we’re going to hold a small living room concert for an afternoon for some of the locals and neighbours around here. We’ll make sure to write a separate blog post about that, because I’m sure it’s going to be a special event. 

The weather: Snow, snow, so much snow!!! And it just keeps coming… like Matilda mentioned in her previous post the weather was one of the things we worried about before going – how could was it actually going to be? What does minus 25 feel like? Will we freeze to death? We’ve now found answers to these questions and no, it’s actually not as bad as we thought it would be. Being a person who’s constantly cold (queue the “but you’re from Sweeeeden, how can you be coooold?” comments) I was seriously scared that I was underestimating the weather in Canada before I went. But I’m fine! Like really! Okay, so there were a few days last week where there was a storm and the wind chill got to -40 degrees and it actually hurt to be outside – but besides that it’s completely manageable. As us Swedes say: There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. I’ve found this to be very true – as long as I’m wearing my thermal underwear I’m staying relatively warm! 

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A look at our daily view – the snow-covered garden!

So that’s the update for the day – now you know what we’ve been up to. Sorry again for the lack of updates but then again, I think that was well-needed to. Now that I’ve been here for some time I’ve found my place more, which I think is important to do before you share it with others like this. Keep checking in here for another update soon where Matilda will share some of the beautiful photography she’s been taking of the surroundings and animals here.

Also, if you have any questions at all or if there’s something specific you want us to write about – please feel free to ask them whether it’s here, on Twitter, Facebook or by email. 🙂

Peace out! 

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We love this dog so much we might just keep her…