My 25-year old daughter, Emily, has been in hospital for 68 days waiting for a heart transplant. This is an important first sentence because Emily's heart health has sculpted my last 25-years. I wasn't that entrepreneur, solopreneur, mompreneur who hated her corporate job and tossed it aside to start a business. I was a happy, corporate employed, married, pregnant woman in 1993 planning on returning to that much loved job after my baby was born.
Then in December 1993, Emily was born with complex congenital heart defects that couldn’t be repaired. As a result, she’s had three heart operations at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and a heart transplant would be in her future. Priorities for my husband, Gary, and I snapped into place immediately after Emily was born. I wouldn’t return to the career I adored, and that was 100% fine with Gary and myself. There wasn’t even a millisecond of doubt that my life wouldn’t be devoted to family. There is a foundation of security knowing exactly the path we would travel even though the path itself remained a mystery.
I stayed home raising Emily, mostly at Sick Kids for her first three years. In January 1998, Emily was given the okay to go home and live a great life. We knew Emily’s heart health journey wouldn’t be easy and wanted to make every moment count.
In June 1998 we went to Disney World. It was such an amazing vacation that we decided to return often, even though I didn’t have an income to finance Disney vacations.
After Emily’s third heart surgery, a year before she started kindergarten, I wanted to get healthy, fit, and take aerobics instructor training. A month after Emily started school, I started teaching fitness classes for The City of Mississauga fitness centres and Goodlife. Soon, I was teaching yoga and art lessons while Emily was in school and in the evening when Gary was home.
In January 2000, we welcomed our son, Evan. Our next Disney World vacation would come to fruition a year later. That vacation also came with a freelance job offer as a travel agent specializing in Disney.
Without realizing it, I became an entrepreneur.
Life was magical, even enchanted ….. until it wasn’t.
In the 6th grade Emily received a grim diagnosis of a rare disease that had a miserable mortality. The disease was a result of a complication of her last heart operation.
I became depressed, anxious and was put on anti-depressant meds. The side effect of weight gain made aerobics and yoga instruction so difficult that I stopped. I let my Disney travel business mostly fade away. But, I did continued teaching art lessons.
Art was my therapy. It had to be, all the traditional therapy that I tried was not helpful. Not only was art my therapy, it became my business.
Once again, I was an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship is the perfect career for me. I’m able to earn a living and still be Emily’s heart health advocate.
I created an adult colouring book, started writing knitting and crochet patterns for Ravelry, built an Etsy shop, taught art lessons (still do), became an Artist in Residence at Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre, and built Earth Looms.
In 2010, we bought a 2.5 acre off-the-grid cabin in the woods just south of Algonquin Park in Ontario. We recently converted my Algonquin art studio into an Airbnb. Because my creative focus is textiles and fiber arts, we have plans to raise fiber animals, such as angora rabbits, goats, and sheep once Emily’s heart health becomes stable. For now I spin and teach spinning (on spinning wheels and drop spindles) with sheep fleece from Ontario farms. I still teach weaving, knitting, and crochet. My Etsy shop and Ravelry patterns are excellent passive income. I sell all things related to textile and fiber arts; spinning wheels, drop spindles, raw fleece, roving, knitting supplies, embroidery hoops and patterns, crochet supplies, weaving looms and supplies, and more. Our off-the-grid cabin has inspired me to pursue permaculture techniques that include; microgreens, vermiculture, beekeeping, and organic urban farming.
Forever a teacher, I also teach online English lessons to students in China early in the mornings before you even think about your morning coffee.
We are so fortunate to have our feet in two locations. Living in Mississauga gives us the home base to visit Emily in Toronto General hospital daily, and the Algonquin cabin gives us the retreat we need to recharge to be able to give Emily our complete support.
Although we are in a holding pattern waiting for Emily’s heart transplant, we can still move forward. I include Emily in my creative entrepreneur business. She helps make and select items for the Etsy shop, she enjoys needle felting, adult colouring books, and sometimes crochets.
We are working on an interesting new cookbook (Emily is a foodie) that will be published just in time for Christmas 2019.
Twenty-five years ago my life dramatically changed course and I wouldn’t have missed a single second. #GratefulMom
#BEaDONOR #AdultColoringBook #LivingArtsCentre #Airbnb #TextileArts #FiberArts #Ravelry #Etsy #AerieNorthProject #PatternsBySandra #Beekeeping #Permaculture #Vermiculture #Studio89 #Mississauga #OffTheGrid #Homesteading #Microgreens #UrbanFarming #TeachOnline #Spinning #SpinningWheel #Spinolution #DropSpindle #Knitting #Crochet #Weaving #Loom #ArtTherapy
Fish vs. Mosquitoes
.September 21, 2018
Not many of you are old enough to remember the tv show Green Acres. It was about a wealthy city dwelling couple who, upon the husbands request, move to the country. The wife, Lisa, played by the glamorous Eva Gabor (Zsa Zsa's sister), went along with the simple life to please her husband, Oliver (Lisa pronounced,
Ol-lee-vr). When we bought our off-grid property I knew my "Inner-Lisa" from Green Acres would occasionally emerge. Spring mosquito season is one of those times. Every Fall I anticipate Spring planting and working around the homestead. And every year I dread the mosquitoes and avoid outdoor work. Our 2.5 acres is wooded, rocky, and full of water sources that mosquitoes love. Standing water is their favourite place to lay larvae. Our medium sized frog pond is over populated with mosquito larvae. The frogs, birds, and bats are awesome and do their best to eat the mosquitoes, but we still have too many mosquitos.
This week I started my annual Spring mosquito deterent research. I had always wanted to try putting more fish in the pond. Our creek is full of fish. The creek was the source of water for the pond, however, a previous owner of the property dammed off the pond so no new fish enter the pond. (We are grateful to him for creating the pond.)
My research lead me to a fish called, gambusia (mosquito fish) that love eating mosquito larvae. I can't find information on these fish in Ontario. They appear to be tropical pond dwellers. I will never introduce a potential invasive animal on our property. (see below *). Gambusia fish look a lot like the minnows in our creek. This weekend I will move a couple dozen creek minnows to the pond and see what happens in the Spring. I don't anticipate that this will solve all our Spring mosquito problems, but I think it's a good start.
I have plans to thin out the overgrown branches around the pond, create an Earth Loom, and sitting area for meditation around the pond. It would be awesome if we could enjoy the pond area in Spring 2019. I'll keep you posted. Sandra XOXO
* Mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis) - Aquatic Invasive Species. Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. The virtues of the mosquito fish, Gambusia affinis, have been extolled by many mosquito control organizations. However, the species can be a major pest when introduced outside their natural range.
September 19, 2018
In recent years, I started watching several Homestead YouTubers. I narrow downed my favourites to: Dirtpatcheaven, Off Grid With Doug & Stacy, and Fouch Family Off Grid. Through Dirtpatcheaven, I learned about WWOOFers. WWOOF is an acronym and started out in the early days as Working Weekends On Organic Farms. This changed in time as it was realised that people wanted to volunteer and host anytime. Now various WWOOF organizations use a variety of meanings: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Willing Workers On Organic Farms. A couple of years ago, when we started talking about formally becoming a micro-farm, we assumed that we would be doing all the work ourselves. However, both Gary and I have health issues that severely slowed down our progress. I started to talk about WWOOFers more often. We have so much knowledge to share.
We are in the process of creating a tiny cabin Airbnb from what was formerly my art studio. With Emily about to be placed on the heart transplant list, I decided to move my art studio back to the city leaving the art studio cabin vacant. It's too adorable to leave empty, so we decided to share the experience on Airbnb. In October, I will be spending several days moving the art studio and designing a tiny cabin Airbnb. IKEA here I come!
The tiny cabin will also serve as the WWOOFer(s) home while they are here.
The application process is detailed. WWOOF Canada and I have been emailing each other all week. It's exciting and a little scaring to move forward with this. I am completely confident that WWOOFers will learn and we will have a mutually beneficial relationship. The scary part is actually seeing our vision come to be. This could be a "be careful what you wish for" scene. This will be hard work. But it's part of our dream. I'll keep you posted about the WWOOF Canada application results! XOXO