Our Dream Home in the Country

Dream Home

Our Dream Home

We bought a 100 year-old French Canadian farmhouse once. It wasn’t a wise thing to do. We knew that right away. But we had two small children, all of our belongings in a van, and no where to live. It was 1967 and Vancouver Island, where my husband had just accepted a job, was suddenly overwhelmed with new residents.

We talked to the owner of the coffee shop, as we were having lunch.
“Happened overnight,” he said, “Hardly anyone living here for years, then suddenly, people all over the place, looking to settle down. Must be the Centennial. Never should have printed all those damned brochures.”

We started out by looking for a house to rent. First we looked in the local paper. In the ‘For Rent’ column. There were no houses there. No apartments either. That couldn’t be, we thought. So we went to the realty office—the only one in town, we were told. The clerk at the desk, who was busy reading, told us that we could add our names to the ‘Houses Wanted’ list, then wait until one came up. We asked her how long that would take—we had two small children, we told her, and were staying in a trailer, so we needed something right away.
“That’s too bad, honey,” she said, and went back to her book.

Our search got us nowhere

So we decided to drive around and find one ourselves. We drove into every driveway. We even took a ferry to a neighboring island and looked around there. We were all tired. My son wanted to stop and play soccer. My daughter wanted to stop and pet all the horses. They started to ask, “Are we there yet?”

Finally, we went back to the realty office. The agent was happy to see us. He had been looking for us, he said. He had a house.

“It’s close to everything,” he explained. “Old French Canadian house. Lots of room. Eleven children grew up there. Needs a bit of work, though. Maybe the guy will rent to you. But he’s in the market to sell. Cheap.”

He offered to lead us there. We followed him carefully down the lane in our low-slung car, going slowly to avoid the potholes. We strained to look past the tall blackberries and the grass on either side. Finally we could see the outline of the roof, and then the house, surrounded by an orchard of very large old apple trees.

Dream home or disaster?

The children wanted to explore the old abandoned yard. I was worried they would fall into a hole, or step on a nail, but after a short inspection, I decided it was safe enough.
“Stay close,” I called, “Remember if you can’t see us, we can’t see you.” I always said that. Sometimes they listened.

We wandered around the yard, looking at the abandoned orchards and the large garden space. We marveled at the size of the place, looking at the roof, and inspecting the window frames. We both liked the veranda that ran along three sides of the house. Inside, we found a bare kitchen, one tiny cupboard supporting a sink, an old oil stove along one wall, and a long wooden table in the center. The front room was very large, with wood floors, a fireplace along one wall, and lots of beautiful old casement windows. Two bedrooms looked over the front yard, and there was a big front hall leading to a wide staircase.

Before we went upstairs, I wanted to see the bathroom. Oh, there it was, wedged between the kitchen and front room. Yes, there was running water, and yes, the toilet worked.

Upstairs we found three large rooms, all with a view of the countryside. The centre room, just under the gables, had two large windows which opened out over the yard.  The sunshine poured into every room. Downstairs, we could hear the children coming in, their voices high with excitement.

“We found some chicken houses,” my daughter was saying, “Over there, in the yard.”

“And a big porch behind the house. You can get to it from the kitchen,” said my son, tugging us toward the back of the house. “It’s where we can put a dog,” he said, “A big dog.”

“And I could have some chickens!” my daughter chirped, “And a horse.”

Back out in the yard, my husband and I looked at each other.

“There’s no kitchen,” I said. “And the bathroom doesn’t make any sense. It’s such a big house, and the bathroom is crammed into a tiny space. And I can’t cook on an oil stove.”

“There doesn’t appear to be any way to heat the place,” my husband said.

The deciding factor

We looked at the realtor. He didn’t look very hopeful.

“Well,” he said, “There’s really no other place I can show you.”

We were going to ask the children what they thought about it. But they were gone. More exploring, we knew.

“Let’s find them and go back to the office,” I said, finally. “So we can sign those papers.”

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34 Responses to Our Dream Home in the Country

  1. Hope you continue to write about starting out in this house. It is a fun read. We almost bought a house that had a huge fire but our son was less than enthusiastic. He kept crying and asking if we were going to by the burnt house.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Glad that you are interested! We renovated the house for four years before we sold it to people who wanted to use it as a pub. So I’ll have lots of stories about it!

  2. tammy j says:

    oh…. next chapter soon please!!!

  3. Peter Jasmin says:

    What a great article. It was like walking down Memory Lane for me. Indeed I grew up in a similar home and spent a lot of time in the large kitchen flooded by sunshine until about 2.00 pm cause it was facing East. Apple trees and other kind of very large trees and bushes. I read this article and walked away with a bit of nostalgia. Thanks for making my day!

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      So glad you appreciated it, Peter. We spent four years on this house, before selling it for use as a pub. (which still exists today).

  4. Lynne Spreen says:

    Oh my gosh, what a great (beginning to the) story. Like everyone else, I want to read more! And given the circumstances, I can see why it would look like an option, esp. compared to a trailer.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I guess I’ll be writing more! Although there are parts of the four years we spent renovating this house that I’d just like to forget!

  5. Susan says:

    Another reader waiting for the next chapter! Great story…

  6. I was nearly late to church this morning because I had to read every word of your post…and, oh, the memories. We did the same thing in 1974, only our old house was twenty miles from where we needed it, so it was moved–which was much more of a production than we ever anticipated. (Youth and ignorance are wonderful!) Then followed twelve years of living in a “major-gut” and rebuild job. Loved every word of your post and look forward to future episodes.

  7. Hilarious! You had to take it – it was the only place available. I can only imagine all the adventures that took place. Please write more about this house, the kids, and how you managed to make it habitable.

  8. Chrissy says:

    That is such a great story Mom. Brought tears to my eyes as you know how much I loved those chickens and the beautiful and wild surroundings! Thank you so much for deciding to get the place. I only wish we could have stayed there longer. Can’t wait to hear more stories!

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Wow! Glad you liked it. We can discuss more of your memories of the place. Thanks for your comment!

  9. Great story! It must have been great for the kids. 🙂

  10. The past can be a wonderful place to visit. Thanks for the memories!

  11. Cathy says:

    the past — memories — but also hindsight — however, you obviously feel you can now write on what was obviously going to be an adventure for the children – some (many) trials for the adults — and I see a grown child has added some information, maybe she will learn a lot more about life as a family — that she didn’t understand whilst in it…

  12. Deborah Todd says:

    Wonderful story, I was hanging on every word, hopefully you will write the next chapter about life in the house!

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I’m planning to intersperse these stories with some articles about more serious topics, but yes, I’ll be writing more on this. Thanks, Deborah!

  13. Virginia says:

    I agree with everyone else. You probably have enough stories for a book. But why stop at a book – a TV series!
    One question though – what’s an oil stove? Whatever it is, you could probably writer a post just about learning to cook on it.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      It’s a stove that ran on oil, somewhat like gas, only a whole lot dirtier. If I didn’t light it a certain way, the whole kitchen would fill with black smoke. I eventually mastered it, but by that time, I was able to buy an electric one. I’d have to dig deep to remember how I did it, but I do remember making jam on the top. Wow, going back a long way!

  14. worzelodd says:

    Great story Diane- looks a bit like where I grew up, my folks married at 35, and bought an old farm. Mas’ last words were “No more damn blackberries”. More stories please, you are a natural, thank you.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I know how she felt. The place was surrounded by fruit—apples, plums, blueberries, raspberries, and yes, blackberries. Coming from the prairies, where the only fruit we had came in a box or a can, I felt compelled to preserve all of it!

  15. joared says:

    Sounds like you didn’t have much choice. Look forward to hearing about your adventure as expect lots of work, fun and memories.

  16. Aunt Beulah says:

    A great story, Diane, which left me anticipating the follow-up, which surely you intend to write! The romantic in me thinks your purchase sounds like a wonderful house, a perfect place to raise children. My practical side tells me it would take some doing to make it truly livable for a family. I hope to find out the rest of the story soon.

  17. yeahanotherblogger says:

    A beautifully-described tale.
    I was on Vancouver Island only once. Had a great time. From Port Alberni my wife and I took a boat tour. The boat sailed down a river to the ocean. Amazing scenery.

  18. Lisa says:

    just found your blog today – love it! Hope you will tell us more about the house!! I also really loved the story about the apples.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Thank you, Lisa! I do intend to write more about the house…I find I have to space my topics between serious and fun. Stories about my younger years are definitely under ‘fun’!

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