Our Story

Hello, we are Michelle and Calvin.

We had always loved living in cities, but several years ago we began to feel a pull to live differently. So, we moved to rural Nova Scotia to build a life of creative learning and making, and of connecting with the land and seasons. As Vibrant Acres has evolved and as we have learned more about textiles and natural dyes, we have found ourselves more and more excited to create and innovate in this area where nature and artistry meet. 

Balcony garden, potted plants, and our little cat
Our little balcony garden, nestled in the trees.

From a balcony to four acres

Several years ago, we began to feel unsettled by the dependencies we could see in dense city life and felt the need to make a change. In spring of 2019, we moved from the heart of Montreal where we had a small balcony garden to four acres of Nova Scotia farmland. Rather than seeing it as a move away from something, we prefer to see it as a move towards something else. Something that perhaps aligns better with our values and how we want to live.

We have spent much of the past two years crash-learning country life, old house care, and land care. We have become much more resilient and have had to learn so many skills related to just about every area of our lives including rural living and homesteading, house repairs (building things!), gardening & farming, living and eating more seasonally, as well as textiles & natural dyes. We have never learned so much in such a short period of time, or felt so continually out of our comfort zone. It has been a constant challenge to our creativity and grit, but it’s been deeply rewarding, too.

Living seasonally

Bundles of dried garlic with multi-coloured straw flowers
Dried garlic and flowers ready to hang in our pantry for winter.

A major motivation for our move was to live a more engaged creative life. We have been working to teach ourselves to focus on being and doing rather than on having (this is an amazingly difficult thing to unlearn). We have also been learning to grow and preserve our own foods, finding our favourites, and slowly scaling up how much we can grow and store. 

Living more seasonally has been a joy – we find that our years follow a more distinct flow. We now spend the majority of our time outdoors during the growing season and most of our winters indoors with the wood stove running, creating new things and planning for the season ahead. We are eating more in keeping with what we can grow or is available locally (this means eating endless cucumbers in summer and then none in winter), and have found that, rather than feeling like we’re missing out on something, it makes each season more special and augments the richness of each season.

Gothic revival farmhouse with white flowering spirea bushes and pink, purple, and white lupins
Spring comes to the garden bringing flowering spirea, mock orange, peonies, and classic Nova Scotian lupins along the roadside ditch.

Restoring land, house, and farm

Old barn hayloft door with light shining through.
Old barn moments.

While well-loved, our little Gothic Revival farmhouse and the surrounding patch of land was in a state of decline when we moved in. We have spent the past two years largely scrambling to get on top of long-standing issues and necessary repairs – many of them quite unglamorous! 

The land had not been used for farming for at least half a century, and the woods along the back of the property was overgrown with chokecherry, poplar, and brambles. So, we set to work re-imagining the land and setting up the beginnings of our farm. The barn is slowly being fixed up to house a chicken coop, potting shed, workshop, and dye processing area. 

We have been building up an ecosystem filled with flowering trees, shrubs, and perennials. We’ve also been putting in a kitchen garden and cottage garden style gardens around the house and barn. It has been a joy to see so many birds and insects make our garden and woods home. 

We’ve poured much love and effort into restoring this place to good health for generations to come. We are relieved to feel as though things are finally turning around!

Learn more and take a walk in our garden >

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

Audrey Hepburn

Building a creative business & joining a community of makers

As Vibrant Acres has evolved and as we have learned more about textiles and natural dyes, we have found ourselves more and more excited to create and innovate in this area where nature and artistry meet. 

We have enjoyed engaging with other artists and artisans within the community, hearing about their projects and ideas, and seeing the beautiful things they create with our natural dyes. We have found that we have a shared thirst for creative exploration, curiosity, and love of colour. 

Learn more about how we create colour >

Red patio sofa with notebook, peonies, morning coffee, watering can and seedlings ready to be planted out
Prepping for the farm day ahead.

Michelle Darwin leaning against a car with market-ready cut flowers

About Michelle

Michelle enjoys encouraging the garden, field, and woods back to abundant health. She looks after the birds, chickens, and barn cats on the farm, and she’s always on the lookout for new spots to plant trees. She grew up hearing stories of her grandmother’s life as part of a family of fishermen near Ostrea Lake, and of her father’s childhood living on naval bases near Halifax. These strong family ties to Nova Scotia have created an unexpected sense of coming full-circle, and of returning home. She also sometimes paints – you can find her work at www.paintedstories.co.

Calvin Schnurr at house door with armload of zucchini

About Calvin

Calvin enjoys designing and building much of the farm infrastructure, and he likes to spend time working with his hands in the field and in the workshop. He has a soft spot for mushrooms and has been caught scheming ways to incorporate them into production.