The Absolutely Unofficial Guide to moving to Nova Scotia

Updated: Feb 4

Written Jan 16th, 2022

This blog post started out of frustration! The power went out and I still had no water when it came back on. I presumed it was frozen, so we boiled water and did all the nonsense things waiting to get someone to look at it. Turns out, wells have pressure tanks and with a 5 second flick of a metal piece, I had water. How would I have known that being new to wells? UGH


Since much of NS is Rural and there's a good chance you're not coming from rural, there is much to know. I was rural before, but still on a water system, hence not knowing about wells!


So whether you're moving to NS or any other place where you'll be rural, this will help!



LUSH - GREEN - MOIST - BFR's

As someone coming from the interior of BC (a near-desert) the lush mosses seem downright magical. Moss grows like a thick hat on many rocks. TREES grow on the top of rocks. It's the craziest most awesome thing. Massive Boulders EVERYWHERE on the south shore - also known as BFR's - Big Frigging Rocks!! All of Oct I spent gaping at the beauty around me as the leaves turned yellow, orange and red. It's a nature lovers paradise.


PEOPLE & PACE OF LIFE

  • THIS is one of the many great reasons to move here. The people are welcoming, kindhearted & lovely. Of course not everyone, they're not robots, but overall, amazing people, like my fellow Newfies! People pitch in and help each other.

  • The pace of life is slower - drive-throughs take 2 twice as long - partly a staffing issue for sure, everyone is hiring!

  • Commenters have asked about BIPOC & LGBTQ+ friendly. I can't speak to that personally although I have friends in those communities that feel comfortable living here and are accepted by most people. I do find it refreshingly more diverse than Kelowna, particularly around Halifax.

  • I've not met one person who wasn't at least nice to my face

  • Depending on where you live EVERYONE knows everyone! In my first week when I said where I'd bought on ___ rd, 3 people said 'oh ____ & ____'s house, she had the most amazing flower beds'. LOL. Yes, she does & I only saw them in Oct! I can't wait to see & share them this summer.

  • NOTE: If you like fast traffic, fast drive-thru's, non-stop hustle-bustle, starbucks (or tims on every corner), uncramped streets in the city, many things nearby... much of NS isn't for you. If you're unfriendly and snooty, probably skip reading the rest of this, NS won't be your jam. I get a dozen waves a day when I drive & I've only once heard an angry honk (not at me, just in general!)

  • If you're medically fragile or need specialized care it's going to be harder. This is a big consideration for many. More down in Medical. ⬇

PURCHASING PROPERTY

  • The avg Nova Scotian will tell you house prices are INSANE, and to them, they are. Prices have skyrocketed here recently, so it's sooo much more than they're used to.

  • The rest of Canada agrees that prices are INSANE. They're SOOOOO LOW for what you get in an amazing province relatively close to a bigger city! I look at the big jump in NS prices as partially a market correction. The prices were crazy low for this beautiful area of our country.

  • My 18 lush treed acres, lakefront, south-facing property is a dream come true. I wasn't even water adjacent in the Okanagan, where an empty tiny lakefront lot sells for over 1M. What I bought in NS would easily sell for 2-3x if it were 45 mins in the Kelowna burbs rather than Halifax burbs. ALL the jaws dropped when I told my friends what I paid for my slice of heaven!

  • VIEWPOINT - THIS website is MUCH better than MLS because the birds eye view and google underlay gives you a much better sense of what's around the home. IMPORTANT- the google map underlay is older and the lot lines are off a bit. The home I'm in is 4yrs old, the viewpoint listing showed the former home. AND just cause you see trees on viewpoint, doesn't mean they're still there. Many many acreage properties I called about, particularly in Yarmouth area, had few trees left. People are buying the lots, taking off the trees and then selling the properties again.

  • NOTE: Like what's happening in much of Canada, houses are rarely selling for listed price, especially hot listings. To get this home, in addition to working with my realtor I was obsessively checking MLS new listings every few hours and I saw this house within an hour of it hitting the MLS and had an offer in within 24hrs.

  • A great realtor is key in hot market! You need to have your financing ducks in a row with few if any conditions, except inspections. You need to be ready to act fast, so make sure you're represented well. Betty-Lou Killen was here to do a walk through with me at 9am the next day and had my offer ready to go. You can't go wrong with her.

EASEMENTS/RIGHT OF WAYS/LOTS SHAPED BY MILK DRUNK TODDLERS

this is something I'd never experienced in my 6 home purchases prior.

  • In the rural areas, ROW's are extremely common, as are lots that are 1/2km long and quite skinny. When you zoom in on Viewpoint you'll do a double-take! The lots around my area are so strangely shaped you'd swear a milk-drunk toddler swayed around a map and it was left like that.

  • Often houses are SO close to the road, especially along the ocean and older hwy's. Viewpoint will help you see the layouts so you can eliminate, if that's not your jam.

  • MANY waterfront lots have homes RIGHT at the road and the water is 1/2km away through the bush, particularly the older gorgeous homes.

  • Lots of lots/properties have ZERO public road access, they can only get to their property by crossing another.

  • Where I live, the road crosses 8-9 people's land to get to my driveway & 4 properties north of me, drive across part of my land to get to their lots. At first, i was SUPER freaked out by this but people here thought I was nuts cause it's just always been like this.

WELLS: The reason this post started. These need power. When you have no power you can't wash hands, flush toilets, brush teeth, drink... ALL THE THINGS.

  • POWER OUTAGE - Flick the pressure switch when the power comes back on! SO simple. "Priming your Pressure Tank". FYI, Standard pressure is ~50 as you see the dial come back up.

  • Storming? Fill the tub - that's the standard statement. Well I don't want to dump gallons of potable water down into my septic when the power comes back on so I fill a few 5 Gallon buckets for flushing toilets

  • Flushing Toilets - no need to take the toilet tank off, just pour the water into the toilet until it flushes

  • Have 72hrs of drinking water on hand. I keep a filled 18L water on hand

SEPTICS:

This is my first time with a Peat Septic AND with septic that needs a pump. Hopefully your septic is gravity fed and works during a power outage. If not, you need power for your tanks to empty to your field, so use water sparingly during an outage.

  • Treat your septic regularly with specially designed products!

  • Reduce your harmful cleaning products etc - everything you pour down your drain is heading out into the ground around your septic

  • Find out more about how to be kind to your septic here. MICROBES are at work and you can kill them and wreck the process!

  • Septics with pumps have alarms to warn you when it's getting too high. You're supposed to hear that from your house, mine was in my garage. I'm in there once every few days and it's not hearable from the house. When my alarm was blaring it was discovered by accident & I had no idea how long it was going for.

WATER EVERYWHERE!

  • Do your due diligence! There are MANY properties in flood zones and the NS govt website has great climate change info and flood tables!

  • There's water everywhere! 💜 It's stunning. From Oceans within minutes, to lakes galore. I was kayaking in Nov. And not in a parka. What is this life? I live on a lake and as I leave to go anywhere, I drive along on older 'hwy' with the most amazingly beautiful seaside homes. It feels like a fairy tale. But it's NOT for everyone! See the pace of life section at the start if you skipped it. ⬆

INTERNET

  • High Speed Fibre Optics is hard to find if you're rural but post Covid it's expanding more and more

  • I signed up for Starlink and LOVE it, but it's pricey! I pay $148 at month but it's Fast AF and unlimited, so SWEET!

  • My neighbors had Explornet and paid $20 a month less for internet that lagged and had limits, they've now got a Starlink Dishy too & love it!

  • Purple Cow is another provider here that many people love.

GROWING

I'm originally from NF before I moved West. I spent the last 18yrs in Kelowna BC, my dream location until it got too hot, dry and started catching fire most years. I was devastated to leave but I wanted to be as far from the burning of BC as I could be while growing my own food year-round. I truly had NO IDEA what was possible until I started googling and scoping out gardening groups. As soon as I saw, I was SOLD.

  • Zone 6 - Apples grow on the roadside, the best raspberries you'll ever eat and nut trees grow nicely here.

  • The local farmers' markets are outstanding!

  • RAIN is plentiful. It's delightful after arriving from a drought region where we didn't have rain for over 40 days.

  • More rain means more mildew if your plants are closer together without airflow, so here I'll have to give my plants more space than I did in BC

  • I like to grow much of what I'll eat. Summer 2022 I'm putting in Food Forest, a Walnut Guild (Walnuts have a root & leaf toxin so are best grown only with plants that can survive this) and a winter greenhouse. If that's your jam, follow this blog and my social as I share the journey

WEATHER

If you're from 'elsewhere' you probably envision deep snow and hideous temperatures and howling winds. Sure that happens, but for MUCH shorter than you'd expect and it often doesn't stick last long! That's what we see on the news in the rest of Canada. ALMOST EVERYONE said 'but what about the awful winters' when I was moving here. I was kayaking on my lake in NOV and tomorrow, Jan 17th it should be +8.

  • WIND - It's not the snow you need to worry about. The WIND is everything. Wind makes blizzards, wind blows the snow into drifts and when it's windy, it's windy AF, especially in winter cause that's a cold biting wind. I feel very confident I can stock my woodstove with nothing but trees downed by nature on my property, lol

  • SUMMER WIND - this is glorious wind. You can go sailing and it blows away the warm humid air and cools you down. It's also why I found beach toys up my woods at the end of the cove. #nailitdown A building to hold your things is required if you live near water, that wind is extra!

  • RAIN - Lots of it, like anywhere coastal! So far it's snowed 4x and rained within a day or two after.

  • WINTER - in most places in Canada winter comes in Nov and stays until spring. In NS temps are up and down regularly and snow doesn't 'stick' until Jan/ Feb

  • This is Jan 1st! On Jan 7th it was +10, on Jan 9th it was -5 and icy. Jan 14th, we had a wicked wind, freezing rain and snow storm. Tomorrow Jan 17th it will all be melted again. Fluctuating temperatures are a given here, so buckle up!

  • If you're coming from Calgary - you'll feel at home! Don't like the weather? Wait an hour and the weather will change!

  • THAW - apparently from 'thaw' through to May sometime, I can't get a dump truck of soil to my house, the big trucks can't drive on the small coastal hwy I use to get home. This is known as 'breakup' in Northern BC and AB.

  • SUN - It's sooo sunny here! Passive solar is heating my house for 50% of the day - more windows & patio doors to come this summer. More passive solar on sunny days, more heat loss at night and dull days. 100% always giving more light, view & yard access!

  • FROZEN LAKES - They are SOOO noisy after the temperature fluctuates. Sounds like bigfoot stomping through the forest, or a growling tummy or a gunshot. Fascinating. Purchasing on a lake is so much more affordable here, do it if you can! But make sure they don't drain the lake. Yes, that's a thing on at least one lake. Saw a post about people so happy the lake still had water in Sept. Say what?

WAGES: All I know is that wages are lower from what I've been told. I work for myself so this wasn't a consideration for me. Minimum wage is lower for sure AND jobs are plentiful according to all the signs and ads I see. Income taxes are WAY higher, unless you're from Quebec, cause their taxes are atrocious. More on money stuff below! ⬇


RENTALS: From what I've seen in my various FB Groups, rentals are a shit show. It's very hard and many landlords have waitlists!


TRADES

Oh my word - they are SOOO hard to find. Huge demand here. There's such a massive influx of people looking to get work done and not enough trades to keep up.

  • I arrived in Oct and immediately booked my chimney sweep. First available was JANUARY!

  • I get many of my trades from the New to NS groups. In one post a carpenter was LOADED with work before they even arrived because so many were desperate to find one. If you're a trade around Hubbards - I probably need you, lol. Message me with your info.

ANIMALS

  • Here's what we have in our woods, water and air!

  • Beavers & porcupines are new to me. One day I looked out the windows and my privacy was gone & could see my neighbors. WTH? Discovered a beaver had taken down multiple trees. OBV I live on water, which is why I have beavers!

  • Porcupines EAT trees. One day I had a peach tree, then I didn't. Porky has a full belly! So, be forewarned, you may need to wrap trees in wire! It's important it be done right or you'll kill the tree. 4x2 wire fencing is ideal, small animals get through easily but the eaters can't and it's stiff enough to hold up. Please ensure you give your trees lots of room. Note, if you paint it black it almost disappears from sight. Trust me, try it.

  • Skunks - I've not experienced this cause I don't chase balls of skinky fluff, but if you have dogs that go after fluffy things and you live near woods - have fun with that.

  • We're working to help Bats come back! If you see a bat please be sure to report it and NEVER ever harm them. They eat our mosquitos so we need them!

TICKS

It's no longer cold enough here in winter to reduce the population dramatically. It's just part of what you get used to all spring, summer, and into the late fall!

  • They were still awake in January - a friend posted a pic of a teeny tick on her son Jan 6th.

  • They're apparently EVERYWHERE on the South Shore (where I live) but my neighbor hasn't seen one in 10yrs. #fingerscrossed

SOUTH vs NORTH vs VALLEY vs CENTRAL

Coles notes, there is no North, I think. Yeah, confusing right? More info to come!

HRM - Halifax and all the stuff around Halifax #shoutoutdartmouth


WHERE DO I LIVE - Community vs County vs Districts vs Area? Well, it's confusing at first! Technically, I live in Mill Cove (that's where my population count is!), but my mailing address is Hubbards as it is for many other small communities around here. Mill Cove is on the Aspotogan Peninsula in Chester County & Lunenberg District, on the South Shore. How amazing does all of that sound? So when someone tells me where they live I'm mostly clueless. Hot Take. Give your 'area' (maybe it's Region) of the province first - 'The Valley' 'South Shore' - at least that lets the other newbies orient a bit.


WOOD STOVES

  • I'm not new to wood heat, but it had been 20+yrs, I was a pellet and electric heat person. I damaged my woodstove by having it TOO HOT. Did you know that's a thing? I damaged my heat tubes that get a double burn and make the stove more efficient. UGH

  • MINI BELLOWS, the size of a pen - did you know these existed? I didn't! How have I lived without this?

  • Heat powered stove fans - get one, they're the best thing ever

SOLAR! NS is HUGE HUGE into solar, plentiful winter sun makes purchasing a house with a south-facing roof for solar a wise move! One of the reasons it's so popular is that the cost of hydro here is BONKERS plus it's amazingly sunny!


PASSIVE SOLAR

I specifically purchased a home that's south-facing and unobstructed so I could get passive solar heating (and will be installing Solar). It's Sunny today, -10 out and my livingroom is a toasty 22 from the sun! In Summer I'll keep the heat out by hanging Coolaroo blinds over my windows, outside. Costco sells these every spring and summer, approx 8x8 heavy duty outdoor blinds ~$90. I did not have Air Con in BC despite living where summer temps were 30+ regularly and full sun exposure, the blinds dropped the indoor temp easily 10 degrees!


RECYCLING

NS is a LEADER in recycling. They've had NO food waste in the garbage stream for 30yrs, BC still doesn't even have that! Learn more at DivertNS.ca

  • This may not be new to you but to me it's much more involved. In BC we put EVERYTHING recyclable into one big blue bin and wheeled it to the curb every second week. We also had a green bin but YARD ONLY - never ever put in a food scrap - all that went in our garbage

  • Here I have one TINY unsmelly garbage bag every 2 weeks. it's boggling!

  • My dry clean paper is separate from all the other stuff and my cardboard has to be bundled. In my area pickup is every 2 weeks. ALLLLLLL food waste (yes ALLL of it) goes into a green bin with your yard waste. AND you can put out a large thing each week for the dump. Yup, true story. I was frankly gobsmacked.

  • To find the bottle return locations for your refundables, look for an ENVIRO-DEPOT. I was googling Bottle Depot (what we called it in BC) and had no luck.

MEDICAL

Like many areas of Canada, NS is short on Dr's and Nurses etc. No surprise since there aren't enough open spots in our Universities to fill the demand. Did you know HUNDREDS of top-quality stellar applicants get turned away from our medical schools every year cause there aren't enough spots? My friends, that's where the damn shortage comes from. #RantForAnotherDay!

  • It's worse here than many other areas and the influx of people recently exacerbates the issue. Register to get a DR as soon as you get your NS health number!

  • Once you register for a Dr you get hooked up with this AMAZING virtual Dr service, I've used it and it's outstanding, way better than going into an office. VirtualCareNS / Maple. "VirtualCareNS primary care providers can treat many common medical conditions virtually, just like during an in-person appointment. They can prescribe medications, order tests, and make referrals for specialized care."

  • No-one told me that here you don't need a Dr to get a Mammogram OR a Pap, here I was waiting months for both of those and it was easy AF. NO Dr required, click the links!

  • There are many walk-ins, the NS gov't site is useless and lists 3, I thought that was ALL THERE WAS. Seemed crazy but with everyone here complaining about health care shortages it made sense. NONE of those 3 were open so for a DR visit we waited 8hrs in emerg.

  • The ER Dr is who informed us there are DOZENS and I had to do a search of NON-official NS information to find them. HERE YOU GO

AUTO INSPECTIONS

This is required every 2-3yrs, depending on the age of your vehicle. this was WAY WAY cheaper than I expected and didn't take long. Like under $40! Any shop can do it for you.


AUTO INSURANCE

BC had ONLY 1 insurer, ICBC. No decisions or need to get multiple quotes, with choices comes freedom and often cost savings!

  • Typically when your home and Auto are from the same place there are better savings, so keep that in mind when lining up home insurance and ideally get them to quote BOTH at once!

DRIVING

  • Unless you're in the city you're going to more driving than you're used to.

  • My town of Hubbards has the essentials but my big shopping is done in Halifax, actually, Bayers Lake, the 'everything' shopping mecca outside of Halifax. It's where I find Costco, big hardware stores, staples, bigger chain restaurants, furniture and movies all within minutes of each other.

  • Driving 45 mins to get to something is 'normal'. I lived 'rural' 15 mins from Kelowna Costco but 'OMG, you live out in Joe Rich, that's soooooo far'... #WhoInvitedYou?

  • In my community of Hubbards I have 3 restaurants, a gas stn, 2 pharmacies, 1 small amazing grocery store, Chiro/Massage/Fascial Work (highly recommend), mechanic, coffee shop, etc. All the things you need on the regular.

  • TURN LANES - Okay, rant ahead. When it's TURN ONLY or STRAIGHT ONLY lane, you have NO IDEA until you get to the light, if you're not the ONLY car when you pull up. There are few overhead signs (cause WIND? ⬆). The car or two in front of you are sitting on the painted directional arrow, so you guess. I lose this game a LOT. Once I ended up over a bridge and paying a toll, twice. That was fun. See "Mac Pass"⬇

MONEY STUFF

  • Gas is higher than many areas of Canada but not a ton, unless you're coming from AB which always has cheap gas. It's similar to central BC prices here

  • INCOME taxes are WAY higher. My same income will require 7K more in annual taxes to be paid to live here. Here's the tax calculator I used to get a rough idea

  • SALES taxes are higher than most of Canada at 15% HST

  • Home Insurance - Holy crap - SO MUCH LESS. Like 1/3 of my BC rate and I'm FURTHER from a fire stn. I think that's cause it's unlikely that my home will burn down every summer here.

  • Land Transfer Tax - A NS thing - adds an extra chunk on your purchase price. Each municipality charges their own %

  • Groceries are slightly more, depending on where you shop. Farmers markets & stands are STELLAR here, so shop there and Costco prices are the same as in BC. Follow me and join the local FB groups if you want to grow your own food - something we ALL should be doing to help our flying space rock!

  • Hydro - BONKERS pricing. If you're heating by electric - get a heat pump rather than baseboard - it will pay for itself in no time. Also, see the section on PASSIVE SOLAR ⬆! NOTE when it's -18 my heat pump cuts out, so that's when I'm on wood only, but -18 isn't a temp that's around for long!

  • Mac Pass - if you're going over bridges or park in Halifax airport parkade just get a MacPass and zip on through - it's billed to your Credit Card AND saves you money!

WHAT AM I MISSING?

What else do you wish you'd known?


LOVE VIDEO? Here's some survey results and NS info from Nathan and Amanda. Note, I've not watched this since I prefer to read, but the comments are good, so I'm sure it's quality info!



Happy Growing, Cooking & Eating! 💜 Dana K


Find me on Social: FB Grow It Cook It Group FB Epicure Biz Page Instagram

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