Smallbones Studio photo in the snow

About Smallbones & Simple Living


Leap and the Net Will Appear!

Caning a rocker at the Port Hope Fair

I’m Jane, and I’m pleased to welcome you to my corner of the internet.

In 1998, I moved from Toronto to the tiny hamlet of Gore’s Landing, about 1 1/4 hours east of Toronto on the south shore of Rice Lake. My interest in simple living quickly became both deeper and easier.

The house

William & Matilda McBride
William & Matilda McBride

I fell in love with my heritage house on sight. I knew that I wanted to live within its old walls before I’d even been inside. It was built in 1855 by William McBride, Gore’s Landing’s first boat builder and coffin maker (his photo is in the Peterborough Canoe Museum). It’s a small and simple dwelling that retains most of its original character.

The hamlet

Gore’s Landing is a wonderful hamlet with its very own open-twice-each-week library in the community hall.

Gore's Landing Community Hall
Community Hall/Library

Rice Lake is also a very popular fishing destination (sadly, for the fish) for people from Ontario and from across the U.S. border. Many people have been coming here during the summer for generations. My move here is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I self publish a booklet, “Self-guided Walking Tour of Historic Gore’s Landing” (see below for more info). Here’s more about Gore’s Landing’s history in a 2017 blog post.


My professional background is with the not-for-profit sector where I worked as an editor, an administrator, and in publicity and P.R. Working with Ontario Nature (it was then the Federation of Ontario Naturalists) inspired my love of the natural world and has been the underpinning of my life. I attended the Kyoto climate change summit on a contract with ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives). I also worked with a co-operative theatre company (Tamahnous Theatre in Vancouver), and children’s media (OWL magazines, books and television). When I moved here, I was a freelance writer and editor. Then I happily found work as the manager of the Northumberland Orchestra & Choir (a wonderful group of dedicated amateur musicians), then as administrator of Hospice Northumberland.

simple living: a path to a secret hideaway
A path in the back yard

Smallbones Studio

When I left Hospice, “Smallbones Studio of Home Arts & Sustainable Living” was born. One of my favourite maxims is “Leap and the net will appear” (I’ve had it on my bulletin board for decades). I leapt. I began making natural, healthful and sustainable alternatives for the items that we use every day, things such as a simple bar of soap, and I was also a chair caner. Then I opened a tiny shop in my front parlour. This website/blog began in 2007. In October 2018, at almost 70, I finally decided to retire my shop!

Simple living and becoming more “green”

I love gardening — from organically grown vegetables and berries to native forbes, shrubs and trees. And, of course, there’s my “Sally Garden” devoted to beautifully coloured willows for basketry. The plan is to eventually delve into willow art and basketry. I’ve always wanted to experiment with living willow structures. Apart from the gardens, I mow very little ‘lawn’. I cut paths and one small section near the pond. A vegetarian since 1984 and vegan since 2010, I’m expanding the veg and herb gardens every year.

September sunrise at Smallbones
September sunrise from back windows

My deep roots as an environmentalist have taken wing here. Although I don’t have the resources for things like solar or wind power, I’ve been able to implement many smaller things. The septic system failed shortly after buying the property, so I installed a composting toilet and greywater system. Composting everything compostable is second nature. I rarely buy new articles of clothing (there are a lot of thrift stores in this area that support various organizations). In 2004, I planted native shrubs & trees by the Gore’s Landing dock to help restore a touch of natural shoreline. They’ve thrived! Living as sustainably as possible has many rewards — the feeling of making a positive impact, no matter how small, is one of the most rewarding.

What’s your story?

If you have a story about your take on living simply and sustainably in your part of the world, I’d love to hear it and perhaps share with others on these pages. Living simply and sustainably means respecting this marvellous world — all people, all plant life, all animals, all natural resources — to feel joy in what we’ve been given, and to continue to learn, to share and to consciously feel the joy. Thank-you for visiting Smallbones!

Gore’s Landing: An Historic Hamlet on the South Shore of Rice Lake

The Gore’s Landing Walking Tour is self-guided and begins with a short recent history of the hamlet of Gore’s Landing, beginning in 1844. Long before European settlers, the first people to enter the Rice Lake area were the Palaeo-Indians – spear points have been found that are thought to be as old as 11,500 years.

The rolling Oak Ridges moraine and recumbent drumlin islands in Rice Lake give the hamlet an enchanting setting. Its aesthetic appeal reminded many British settlers of the lakes and scenery of their homeland. Their legacy of sketches, paintings and writings has given the hamlet a rich heritage. Fortunately, records for the Township of Hamilton have been preserved to an extent greater than those in many municipalities. Catharine Parr Traill, one of Canada’s foremost early writers, was a resident. Her records give an invaluable glimpse of pioneer life at Gore’s Landing.

 Be your own tour guide!

Today, Gore’s Landing residents are proud of our hamlet’s rich history and pleased to share it with visitors. The 20-page walking tour guide covers approximately four kilometers in the main section of the village. There is a photo of each house and a description of its origin. I made this walking tour guide using the information (with permission) in “Gore’s Landing and the Rice Lake Plains,” which is no longer in print.

March 2023: The walking tour guide is now updated and available. Send an email if you’d like a copy: jane(at)smallbones(dot)ca


12 Replies to “About Smallbones & Simple Living”

  1. Hello Jane, from all your friends on Etsy. We miss you.

    1. Hi Marc! Lovely to hear from you. I was wondering about you all recently and miss the friendships. I hope you’re doing well.

  2. Hi, are you still open?

    1. I closed my shop in October.

  3. Hi Jane Thanks for comment in


    1. You’re welcome, Kevin.

  4. Hi Jane
    Thankyou for your post on willows- I’ve just started ready about different varieties. We moved to a property with lots of water ( obviously I came to willows from another direction) I work in clay – so the idea of growing a different medium is exciting.
    Hope your Sally garden is doing well and your harvesting enough for that fence !
    Lori Fingerlakes region NY

    1. It is great fun growing the beautifully coloured willows, Lori. The woman who gave me my cuttings told me that water is not so important for basket willows, but sunshine and keeping weeds away is more important. I have some very wet areas on my property, too, and have native willows growing in those places.

      I tried to start a ‘fedge’ in my front garden, but most died. Complete lack of water doesn’t work, either! The woven basket willow tree that I started indoors one winter, then planted out back in a wet area, is doing magnificently! So, I’d say that the bottom line is that they definitely need a moist area, but ‘wet’ isn’t necessary.

  5. Hi Jane,

    My name is Michael Edwin and I really enjoyed reading your story allbeit with a little envy as I live in Sydney Australia where the cost of living is high and I have no garden because I live in a small warehouse. I came across your web site by accident although there are probably no accidents in life. I do make my own soap. Mainly coconut oils soap and I buy the coconut oil from Vanuatu because the people there need the money and I make neem seed oil soap which is nicer than coconut oil soap in my opinion but I was interested in your laundry detergent recipe because I have a front loader machine and thought I’d try to make some with the soap I have already made

    Oh my god I’m writing a book here


    1. Hi Mike. I have a lot of on-line friends in Australia & I envy the lack of winter for many of them. And the fruit trees you can grow!!! I’m sure that it must be interesting to live in a warehouse. There are a lot of people in Toronto (my home city) who live in ‘recycled’ warehouses with wonderful huge windows and high ceilings.

      I use coconut oil in my hemp shampoo bars, but I’m not sure that I’ll continue with them as the ingredients are very expensive & imported aside from the hemp oil, which is local. I’m glad that your source is helped by your soap-making. I’ve used neem oil for my few rose bushes, but never in soap – sounds interesting. I must look into it. I don’t feel that I can share my detergent recipe as it was given to me by a friend, but it’s very similar to many that are on the internet. I make a powder one, but in the past I’ve made liquid ones that also work well; you just have to give them a shake before using.

      Good luck! It’s nice to hear from you.

  6. I have also just moved to the country, (cramahe) and am loving it. Enjoyed your blog so far.

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