The easiest way to get to Nova Scotia is to be born here. For everyone else, it’s a journey.
You know what? Montreal, London, Brantford, Windsor, Mississauga, Ottawa, Vancouver do not reflect village life in Nova Scotia. Your local grocery store will not be stocking three brands of cherry peppers, five brands of ketchup, blue cheese stuffed olives or six styles of Brie and I wouldn’t bother asking for rye bread, and just so you know, the Canadian Tire doesn’t repair Rolex watches. Fish and lobster are expensive.
In the last three years, within a two minute walk of my most excellent Pictou county castle, houses have sold from $17,000 to $200,000. The range is wild. Part of the social shift, during that same time period, had accountants wondering if they should become poets, chiefs wondering if they should become homesteaders, couch potatoes wondering if they should be getting jobs and seniors just bewildered. The direction and paths of our lives was held up to sudden introspection.
The daily news was dramatic and full of people seeking new lives for fear of missing out, due to certain microbes released by a wave of the unseen hand. There was a renaissance thinking about the fragility of life and its meaning. For part of the response, Canadians, by the tens of thousands, moved to Nova Scotia. The near island of Nova Scotia popped across the one million population point.
People moved to Nova Scotia for many reasons. Someone can pretty much sell their house anywhere in Canada and buy a house in the Maritimes but the reverse is not true. Not generally. Half the population lives in Halifax/Dartmouth, the other half is spread out in a hundred little towns, villages and hamlets dug out of the forest and surrounded by deer and big fat raccoons. I have nothing much to say about Halifax, I didn’t come here to live in a big city. There’s plenty of information about living in Halifax elsewhere.
Moving here doesn’t make sense if you need the concert halls, galleries, fashion houses and theatres. You have to want a massive difference and be prepared for it so as not to become frozen with culture shock. The new-comers that I’ve met here are half, like myself, in the over fifty category and mainly pensioned off and the others just escaping. They ran from Oshawa, they ran from Hamilton, Ottawa and Mississauga. They even ran from Halifax. They came here due to the cost of housing via the sale of their house, or windfall or skin of their teeth. All purchased their house sight unseen. A bottom line pension of $1,900 a month is what many blue collar survivors get. There is another group, younger, that I’ve only met mainly via their videos. Both groups get space in their final frontiers if they can buy. Rent remains a killer anywhere. Rent is awful.
It’s not a serendipity skip in the park to get here. The pro/con list of moving would be challenging for even Rory Gilmore. One of the steps is checking out you tube videos. One in particular is pretty funny in that he says, ‘You asked for it, don’t complain.’ He’s talking about rural roads and driveways during snow storms.
He’s talking about raccoon and deer gangs that push their way around. He’s talking about the lack of $30 an hour jobs and having to learn how to do your own repairs. The other, as I say, are family and friends. I don’t know where you think you might be coming from but I bet it’s more than 200 litres of gas return. I bet everyone you know is at least a thousand miles away. So…
Micro-aggressions, lip curling snarls, hairy eyeballing, butting in lines, squaring off and being strapped to get to work evaporate into some faux dream. Escalators, elevators, four story buildings…what are those? That’s all gone.
There’s lots of dog walkers though. Seems like every other house has a dog. Finding a vet that takes new patients, that can be dicey. Medical care for everyone, both animals and humans and everywhere is dicey now. I’ve met people who wanted to move to Nova Scotia but couldn’t because their medicals wouldn’t be covered. But the point is, it’s dog friendly. The other point is, only housing is cheaper. Everything else is the same price it would be in any big city.
Can you get here? I don’t know. Can you? Moving here via third party help, via reserving your truck, via anything is an unknown. Moving companies and deals from wherever you are to here are legendary in their failures, incompetence, broken contracts and duty. I wish you lots of luck. I got here by plane and two sub-par movers. There are some good ones.
Where to go? The first thing you need to do is research and then research and maybe more research after that. Most dwellings are houses, there really aren’t that many apartment buildings. The town you pick, the rural road you pick, the county acreage you pick are all a little bit different from one another.
Weather can be dramatically different thirty miles in the other direction. You can’t assume the bylaws, property rights, business rules, water rights are what you expect. Where is the grocery store? Do you have teenagers? I bet they expect to get dates at some point, best to check out the demographics. Stats-Canada is also an excellent place to start.
It hasn’t worked out for everyone who moved here and some regret it, in particular after all the expenses and headaches. I think you need to bring your own family, entertainment and hobbies. Most everybody here has been living in the same neighbourhood for about two hundred years living three doors away from where their grandfather was born and breaking into that network can be challenging but best foot forward. It can be hard to meet people no matter where you are. Once you start sharing skills and stories, things can open up.
For the outdoor lover, they are in heaven. If you were looking for a good reason to drive a pick up truck, you’ve hit it. If you like those fat tire bouncy wheel things, you will love it. If you would like to go to the local Canadian Tire and choose from among 400 different rifles on display, you will love it. If you’ve always wanted to have a need for an alternative heat source for when the electricity goes out, you will love it. If you like gardening and big yards, I mean really big yards, you will love it.
The hurricanes want to kill you. The ticks want to kill you. The deer want to eat all your food. The spiders are way too big. Spring and fall each last only about a week. You will care about the weather. The weather probably won’t interfere with local bus transportation because no one has local bus transportation. Municipal buses and bike lanes are for sissies. You may need a car, if you do, I understand insurance is much cheaper. I ride a bicycle and take taxi rides.
There’s lots of survivalists up here, you know, preppers, the crowd waiting for the collapse of civilization, alien invasion, political take overs, you know, this and that. There are right wing prepper groups up here, left wing preppers, hippie preppers…everyone is a prepper. It appears to be a good spot to wait for the apocalypse and barter for cord wood and chickens. Anyway, you should have 72 hours of supplies.
If you were that woman who got threatened with a fine for installing non-matching shingles on your roof in Ottawa, if you were that guy in Point-Claire who got told by the city you couldn’t paint your garage door that colour, if you were that guy in Toronto who had to make out an application to park a second vehicle in his driveway, if you got a notice because your recycle bin was smelling bad, if your land lord told you no pets/no smoking, if you needed a permit to put up a shed, if someone told you that you couldn’t buy a house with a credit card; you’re gonna like the rules here. From what I can see, if you leave people alone and don’t endanger anyone’s property you are allowed to live as rich or poor as you like, given that you pay your taxes. I see houses that are spectacular architectural marvels from the days of sail complete with secret tunnels built during prohibition days to busted out window leaning shacks that would be served with papers in any big city. I don’t get the impression that the powers that be here are going out of their way to crush people. Life can do that on its own.
So, now that you’ve bought your house sight unseen with a credit card, it’s time to fix it up. In Nova Scotia there are tons of ‘contractors’ but only so many Contractors. You know, regardless of your ability or age, most of the time you are going to regret not buying the tools and materials new and spending hours in front of how to videos as you prepare to do a ‘close enough’ job yourself. Unless you think it’s way too complicated or dangerous, we all have limits, do it yourself. Relying on third party help is still tricky. There are many good ones and they can be quite fair. Talk to people. There are a variety of grants.
Do you need a job? I don’t know much about that. I see lots of new pick up trucks and cars and shiny houses. I see people buying lots of crap and useless objects still. Someone is working. There’s tons of F-150’s and people love their vintage cars. People love motorcycles here too and Harley is ubiquitous. Old men ride Harley’s here by the thousands. I think it’s because motorcycle insurance for young people is totally insane.
Will your life improve if you come here? That’s the big question isn’t it? That’s what’s behind every move. If you are coming here with a month’s rent in your hand and a chipper attitude, I don’t know what to say. If it’s meant to be.
Buddy, down the street bought a complete broken down, rat infested shithole for $17,000 when he turned 65 and moved in from Calgary. Some how after a life-time of living and working for the man he managed to put together a seventeen grand nut. The alternative was an expensive room or insane rent for an apartment digging his capital to zero in short order. It’s three years later and he’s moved as slow as one does and his house is dry and warm and no rats and it has a lawn, driveway, wood stove, the floor still has a lean to it but no rent or mortgage.
Other buddy came from Oshawa, he was the man and moved into a lovely place for a hundred thousand two years ago that needed no work. All he did was cut the grass. He sold it last month for two hundred thousand, called it a life changer and moved into a retirement village. I think he’s a financial genius.
Buddy couldn’t take the hot, fast and crazy life in Dartmouth. She saw a place a few months ago for fifty thousand and it was possible to live in it, so she took her half from the divorce and has dug in. She is in shell shock from Dartmouth and thinks this is like 1963 Canada because kids ride their bikes, play in the park and people leave their lawnmowers out in the open.
Buddy moved in from Hamilton so very tired of having his garage broken into and the general city tension. He bought his castle last month for $39,000. When you open the front door now, there is a floor. I hear the hammering. It may very well have electricity by winter. Meanwhile he lives in a camper with his dog. He’s not helpless at forty-eight.
I got here in 2021, at 65, like I said, with a deed for a $35,000 abandoned house in my hand and a friggen cold first winter full of blistering nor westers for a coat. Well, you know, it’s two years and several loads of lumber later. Just about everything missing and broken got replaced and it cost me everything I had but you know what? The monthly carry costs on this place including taxes, heat, water, electricity, insurance are about $500 a month. Try that in Ottawa. It’s not because I was smart, it’s because I had lucky cash to run away.
In the village, people have lawns and backyards decorated with whimsy, fancy and plain objects and they DON’T GET VANDALIZED. Think about that, what that must mean. Why are the teenagers not trashing the streets, vandalizing lawns and spray painting buildings? I mean, I don’t think they are born again saints and there are police stations here for a reason but on the surface, I’m drinking in the refreshing Kool-Aid. One of the things I think I’ve noticed here compared to small town Ontario is that a lot of the kids in small town Ontario can’t wait to get out. I don’t get that impression here. People work their whole lives to finally live in a setting like this. But like many others, when I wanted cash, I went to Ontario. Nova Scotia is no stranger to people going to Alberta, not losing all their money gambling and coming back to buy a house.
There are problems, I know, everywhere, but I’m glad to not encounter street psychos and sidewalk beggers on a daily basis. It was getting hard to take. In the just over the five months it took me to quit, there were six random murders on the street where I was spinning wrenches in Ottawa. I went to work strapped. I shouldn’t have had to do that. It’s nerve wracking to never know who is going to strike at you next for what phantom perceived reason. I’m still getting over all that tension. It doesn’t feel stabby here.
Trouble. Are you looking for trouble? You can get in trouble here if you want. There are people that will beat you up for free if you ask for it, I have no doubt. You could start a purple-meth biker gang out in the middle of nowhere in a dilapidated shack if you wanted. If you are lucky the cops will bust you before a real gang does. There are prisons. I don’t look for it, I don’t really want to know about it, I don’t hear much. I’m not paying $4.00 for a newspaper to read about it either. Four bucks for a newspaper, guess who owns that? My dog will bark at you if you come close to the house. My neighbour will hear me yell and ‘…if the dog doesn’t get you, the wood-chipper will.’ That’s not my saying, I heard it from Buddy with the well and six dogs and just thought it was funny.
I tell you what though. When you move to a new area, call a cab, give the cabby $40.00. Ask to be driven all over the place and have the city and local regional highlights and gossip explained to you. Cab drivers know more than the FBI, all politicians and most journalists. Cab driver insight shouldn’t be underestimated. I don’t understand why there are more lawyers than taxi drivers in Parliament. Our loss.
On that note though, I will say there is no problem at all getting an idyllic place in the bucolic countryside. You’ve never seen so many trees and so much water. Houses are for sale all over the place in a variety of price ranges and conditions that play to any standard. Often, the country ones are on a well and septic. Most of the cheaper ones could use about $40,000 in love. One of the advantages and costs of living in a municipality is municipal water and sewage, a buck a day in many cases. But out in the countryside you don’t have to pay those bills or drink the communist inspired, shape shifting lizard, fluoridated water. You will however have to learn how to keep your pump working in the winter and test that water. Also, you are really on your own. No one is going to hear you yell on your two acre place a half mile from the nearest neighbour. And if people do think you need help, it isn’t going to get there for awhile. So, you need to think about your security as you would anywhere. Nova Scotia is not about weakness and skirt gathering fear. Freedom, right? You wanted freedom. Play your stereo loud, pee off the porch, grow some tomatoes, get a hammer and raise a puppy for your tomorrows.
Oh, there are a few handfuls of homesteaders out here. They used to be called farmers. They are living the dream seven days a week from dawn until dusk milking the chickens and chasing cows. Dreams like that get fulfilled around here. I know Buddy just bought ten cows for three hundred dollars each. He won’t have to worry about free time now, but he likes that stuff. Rent to own worked out for him and his twenty acres. Rent to own is common enough in Nova Scotia. People with no credit and bad records, some of them, get ahead that way. Don’t miss a payment or be ten minutes late with it if you are engaged with rent to own. It’s not a game.
Do you like to drink? I think Nova Scotia has the most expensive booze in the country. I swear the price of a can of beer in the liquor store is the same as a tavern in Ontario. I don’t drink, I’m just saying. Same for tobacco. A pack a day habit is for sure equal to a mortgage.
Politics. I don’t know nothing about politics. When I want to know about politics, I look in my fridge or wallet. That’s what I have to say about that. This province is pretty much controlled and owned by less than a half dozen families same as it would be in an Ontario city of this size, except it’s a province so that’s kinda weird but it’s that way.
Do you have a need for labour, wood, water? Would you know what to do with that? There’s lots of that here and plenty of warehouse space too.
But more about me. I was sharing a house in Ottawa with five guys for four years, sharing one bathroom and a crowded fridge. I turned 65 and got lucky. Luck and health play too much of a role in society but there you go. Now, I walk my dog a couple times a day. No mortgage, no rent. I live on one acre in a 950 square foot detached house built in 1941. I see deer while I wash my dishes. The library has a 3 D printer and the only photocopier in town. I don’t have to show my ID at the post office anymore. The stars put on a good show at night. I putter around and work on the house a few hours a week. I’m in no hurry. I ride my bike to the grocery store. I phone in delivery orders to the hardware stores. I’m insulating a wall. The dog got a tick behind her ear. I stopped a basement leak. The commode needs a new flush thingy. I don’t get to split the bills five ways anymore. The dog still steals my bacon sandwiches. The global market place comes to my door or post box. I miss nothing material really, except I’ve gone to four stores so far looking for horseradish. I have a yard and a fence, I know the names of my neighbours but not their business, my sump pump works. It’s just nice and nothing ever happens. But you have to be in the mood for that.
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He has worked as a waiter, dishwasher, janitor, bike mechanic, student, shipper, receiver, electro-mechanic, used and rare book store owner, typist, bowling ball machine mechanic, short-order cook, secretary, receptionist, salesman, linotype operator, assembly line worker and meat packer.
He has traveled North America by bus, bicycle, car, truck, plane and foot. He has been sleeping in hostels, tents, hotels, apartments, houses, stairwells, out in the open and on someone’s couch.
Roy has published in Monitoring Times, Writers Block Magazine, hundreds of letters to the Editor across Canada since 1970 and published articles and stories in Canadapa, Cannabis Culture Magazine, Rude Magazine, Brick, Media-Five, London Free Press, Faux-Pas, Satellite, Cornwall Free News, The Montreal Review, Powderburnflash and Fogel’s Underground Price & Grading Guide 2015-2016 and not withstanding; one minute in the movie documentary, Citizen Marc. Roy uses a Grundig Satellite 800 shortwave radio to travel the world without a passport and orchestrates important national affairs from his home in Pictou County Nova Scotia.