Sunday, March 29, 2009

This Old House

So now I own a house in Nova Scotia. I flew back to Calgary and waited for all the financing etc to go through and eventually the closing came and went and voila! I am an official house owner! Now ... to the important things - planning the move and renovations ...

The roof shingles need to be replaced which is a simple enough process since this is what the interior of the attic looks like. Perfect. There are a couple areas outside that need the wood replaced but that was worked into the quote I got.

The house skirting is currently plywood which I will change to a white vinyl skirting so it doesn't rot from water damage - it was raining when I took this picture and you can see the water in the wood. This is the southwest corner of the house. Yes ... it's a south facing backyard. The dogs will just DIE.

I'm also planning on putting eavestroughs on the house. You may notice there are no eaves or soffits except over the front entrance. Not sure why in such a wet climate but eavestroughs will keep a lot of the water away from the house.

The window frames need painting and the front and back doors need a coat as well, they are newer doors but have never been painted. I'm thinking a royal blue actually to accent the blue of the house itself. The frames of the windows will of course be white.

The decks, both front and back, are incredibly well built. I'm debating painting them or leaving them natural. Painting means maintenance but it will look so darn nice, a pale blue house with a royal blue door and white accents? So cute.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I flew to Nova Scotia in October 2008 having found a realtor - Debby - and together we made a list of the houses I wanted to see. I had narrowed it down to about 8 and upon arriving in Halifax at 7am I drove the 2 hours to Pictou to meet her.
We set off and the first place we looked at was just outside the town on 3 acres with a house that needs condemning. Scratch that one.

We then returned to Pictou and headed into an area that almost entirely consists of post war homes. They are those older wartime pre-fab homes - the little boxes with roofs on. A few had been allowed to sink into disrepair but most were in very good shape, well kept and some had additions but just needed a little TLC. I looked at 3 or 4 and was hopeful one would eventually come out on top because I liked the town so much.

We still had a few more properties in the nearby communities of Trenton, Westville and Stellarton. We were inside a house that we felt would collapse any second, a couple had two stories but the roof was too low, and there was one I really liked but it was pushing 100 years and the amount of work required was just too over-whelming to consider for a first home.

As the day came to a close I thought about the houses I'd seen. Always one came to the top of the pile. It was 825 square feet, a good sized yard with a concrete pad in the back, three bedrooms and it was in very good shape - just need paint and some TLC. The roof shingles needed to be replaced but the roof itself was in excellent shape. This was the one. Plus there was an oak tree in the front yard ... and the address is Oak Street ... can't get more quaint than that can you?

We put in an offer, they countered and voila, I had been in Nova Scotia for barely 48 hours and I was now the proud owner of a house in Pictou. Isn't it the cutest? That's my oak tree in front there.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Location Location Location

Choosing a town to live in is no easy task. I had criteria; most of which centered on proximity to dog shows, dog bylaws, and dog accessible places for the beasts to burn off steam. I wanted a good sized house that I could afford but not one that was so large I’d ramble around in it and end up losing a cat. It also needed to be structurally sound and not require a lot of work since I’m kind of an indoor girl.

The first thing I noticed, looking at the homes for sale online, is that there are very few fences in the Maritimes. The neighbors will get a big surprise when I move in since my first renovation will be a 6 foot fence around the back yard. Then they’ll see the dogs and say “Oooooooh. Can you make the fence bigger?”

I jest of course. I think.

Many of the houses stated they were in need of work which was fine with me as I planned to do some renovations anyway to personalize and dog-ify it. The houses needed to be something I could tackle and not over-whelm me with my very first house purchase.

So the western most tip of Nova Scotia and along the Bay of Fundy was out – too remote. The bottom of the province would suffer the most from southern storms and hurricanes coming up the coast. The house prices near Halifax rose according to distance from the city and I was not interested in living in or near a major centre again(despite the hundreds of thousands in population difference between Calgary and Halifax). Cape Breton – the bit that sticks way out up into the North Atlantic was also mostly rock and exposed to the winter weather coming in from the ocean. I’m tough but not that tough. Plus the dogs would never forgive me.

In April of 2008 I was drawn to a city called New Glasgow because of the name. Can’t get much more Scottish Canadian than that can you? It’s located in what I call the ‘elbow’ of Nova Scotia and protected by various land masses but is still right on the water. Also, a town called Pictou kept coming up in my realtor listing searches as being within my price range and after more research I discovered that Pictou calls itself “The Birthplace of New Scotland”.


If you’ve checked out the links to Pictou you’ll see how charming and quaint a tourist town it is. I grew up in the charming and quaint tourist town of Cochrane in the foothills of Alberta (even though as a teenager I’d just refer to it as lame) so I knew I’d feel right at home. The Pictou website is updated frequently and well presented, something that not all small town websites manage and gave me a really good idea what the town was like.

So that was it. I settled on the town and began researching homes there. I’m the sort of person who trusts when something clicks – it’s not all about logic. My gut was telling me my new home was in Pictou. I just had to get there to find it.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Once I decided that I was going to move to the Maritimes I had some research to do. I knew that I wanted to be in one of the three provinces but not which one. They all had their positives and negatives. I had some exploring to do via the internet.

Prince Edward Island of Anne of Green Gables fame is more temperate, smaller, and the house prices were slightly less depending on what you were looking for. Unfortunately a lot of the jobs seemed to be seasonal and the 'real' jobs were close to major centres which meant you had to live near one which affected the house prices.

New Brunswick, which borders Maine and Quebec, had good prices, several major centres and had house prices that I was really impressed with. The downside is that half of NB is bilingual which I'm absolutely not.

Nova Scotia. Latin for New Scotland. Several major centres, lots of job prospects and rooted in Scottish tradition. I haven't yet come across a negative. Time will tell.

So Nova Scotia it was. I was pretty candid in my assessments of each province. A decision to uproot my life had to be grounded in good research. But a lot of it had to do with intuition and knowing that I wanted to get as close to the Scottish feeling as I could.

So now I know what province. Now where within said province?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Travel Travel

In 1976 a redhead was born in Calgary, Alberta at the Holy Coss Hospital. (All of the photos in this post are from Scotland not NS)

Thirty years later she would head to Scotland for a couple of weeks to visit her best high school friend who had moved there a few years earlier. This visit would plant the seed for an idea about where home is, what happiness really means and why there was always an inexplicable desire to get away from (almost) the only place she'd ever lived.

I got home from that trip and immediately decided that if I was going to live anywhere in the world it would be Scotland.

The following months saw me all over the internet doing my research, making calls about the cost to ship my junk overseas, and even began the process of obtaining my dual citizenship.

I finally came to the conclusion that although I felt Scotland was in my blood (even though it's not at all, I'm Irish/English ancestory) it was going to prove too expensive, especially with the dogs and cats who I would absolutely never leave behind.

As it happened, while I was in Scotland, a friend of mine was in Nova Scotia for a wedding. She had also been to Scotland in years past and said "If you like Scotland you'd probably also like Nova Scotia since that is what a lot of their culture is based upon." I dismissed the idea since the western stigma against the Maritime provinces was in the very hemoglobin of my Alberta blood.

One day I was online at work, not doing my job, and decided to check MLS(multiple listing service) for homes in Canada that I could afford. I knew I'd never buy in Calgary, too expensive, and I didn't want to stay in the city or province anyway. On a whim I clicked on Prince Edward Island.

$35,000 for an older house on an acreage.

And that, in June of 2007, is when the real research began. Employment, house quality, location, topography, demographics, renovation costs, moving costs, lifestyle, animal bylaws, dog show circuits and all the things you need to know before you pick up your entire life and move it 5000km.

So here's the continuing story of how a grain fed, beef loving, country raised girl from Alberta decided to leave all she knew and head east with four dogs, three cats and two dogs in spirit.