What is a canard?
So, you want to more about canards?
Well, they're almost all based on the original VariEZ design by Burt Rutan of Voyager and Spaceship One fame. The first designs came out in the early 80s, and most of them are "plans built". That means there's no kit, as such. You just get a set of plans, order materials from various suppliers and start building. It's not as hard as it sounds, and it's a very rewarding task. For about $20,000 spread over the time it takes you to build, you're airframe gradually takes on the look of a slick looking airplane. One that will later turn heads wherever it goes. The engine and avionics will typically cost another $20,000 each, so for about $50,000-60,000 you end up with an airplane that performs better than any production aircraft you can reasonable buy even for 5 times the price. Some have built a canard airplane in less than one year. That would be full time and a lot of late nights. Some make it a lifetime hobby and take 15 or more years to complete. Many do not finish. The average time to completion is probably on the order of 5 years.
Best of all - you built it! From scratch. You know every nut and bolt personally, and you know for sure that it's safe - because you're the one that maintains it. It costs very little to maintain and fly. Canards are very economical and VERY, VERY fast. Forget cruising at 115kts like you do in your 172. Most canards cruise at 180 or better using less than 10 GPH, and with a few extra horses, say from a 250 HP turbo rotary engine, they've been known to reach 250mph and more. The standard engine for a 4 seat Cozy IV is a 200 HP Lycoming 360. An IO540 will make them scream, and a variable pitch prop makes take-off nothing short of exhilarating.
Canards are not aerobatic, nor are they soft or short field aircraft. They're basically high-speed travel machines that need around 3000' or more of hard runway. They're very EZ to fly, except that the landing is different enough that you won't want to try it without a serious check-ride, and they're so much faster than you're average "spam can" (172 or Piper) that it's easy to get behind the airplane.
Where can you learn more?
The story of one build is told in excruciating detail here. There are many other builders sites around, and there's a map on the canard aviation forum that'll help you locate a builder or a flyer near you. You'll find Canardians as they like to call themselves, very receptive to showing you around they're dream or even taking you for a quick flight - and I do mean quick. There are fly-in's every year listed here. The most popular for canards is Rough River. Here you can meet the canard families. Introduce you're significant other to those who have shared the same dream, and learn about the drive and ambition of a typical canard builder. Hear from those who have completed their canard about the advantages of being able to get around the country fast. Weekend vacations in far off states, and day-trips to places that would take 8 hours to drive each way. Canard builders are a facinating and multi-talented bunch from all walks of life. They're not all rocket scientists and astronauts, although there are a few. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, cops, carpenters, nurses - you name it. Anyone with determination and a will to learn can build a canard. The real question is this - do you have "the dream", and will you ever get over it if you don't pursue it?