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"We will die here, fighting to complete our dreams." (Lessons Learned, Changes Accepted, in the Last 10 Years of Homesteading)

Dianne has been a subscriber to COUNTRYSIDE since 1 975. She noticed an ad for COUNTRYSIDE in Mother Earth News. Dianne was a city dweller born with a close connection to the land. She felt she wanted to marry a farmer. Instead she married a television worker who hadn't lived anywhere but in cities.

Yet I had a 10 acre parcel of land I had bought to build a house on. Initially the land was tied up in building restrictions so a garden and some fruit trees were the first tentative steps beyond the sidewalks.

We moved west and ended up in the heart of a very small town in a very small house. The house soon had a garden and rabbits in the garage. When the house was sold a 20 acre parcel of land was bought outright and a small Granny loan resulted in a two story house, a hand pump and wood heat. This was the beginning of the true homestead lifestyle.

Ten years ago the children were small. Now one is in university, one is working and two are still in school. Ten years ago we had goats, geese, sheep, chickens, turkeys, ducks, calves, pigs, cats and a dog. Our emphasis has gone from livestock to gardening, starting with a Troybilt rototiller purchased two years ago. Last year the garden was very successful. This year a combination of drought and snow August 20th resulted in a lot of work for little return.

We have gone the complete route from helping deliver kids to killing and butchering. We have cut firewood, hand pumped water and lived without power for 11 years. We tried Aladdin lamps, generators, propane fridges and bee-keeping.

Now we have power, water in the yard at the touch of a switch and a backup propane heater. We have a computer, a microwave, a fridge, two freezers and two colour televisions.

Our biggest challenge has been living with very limited money. Because we haven't found full-time work all our plans have been either halted, delayed or reached, but not the way we originally planned. Our house isn't finished, our fences aren't complete, things we built 10 years ago now need replacing and cars are a constant problem.

I haven't learned a thing but Dianne has learned it pays to plan things completely before starting them. We won't elaborate on this because a fist fight would cut the article short.

Initially I wanted to live completely on the land, raising all our food, supplying all our heat and water by hand power and never being homeless because of outside problems. Experience has proven, for us, it isn't possible. The demands for money for the children's requirements, for reliable transportation and for basic comfort require outside money. I have worked at everything from hammering on others' pole buildings to theatre. We face a climate that is very hostile, that kills animals, that ruins crops, that requires seven months of firewood--some years nine.

At our best we supplied all our meats, eggs, milk, heat, water and some vegetables. We buy fruit from an organic source from the next province west.

Calmed by the countryside

Our greatest benefit from homesteading is the peace and tranquillity of country living. When we return from our city jobs we feel hassled and stressed out. Within minutes of returning we feel calmed by the trees, our animals' sounds, the space. We live in a sheltered valley, safe from high winds and the outside world.

The greatest pain has come from things we can't change. When you are wracked with the flu an outhouse at 40 below can make you wish you lived elsewhere. When the snow closes the road and you must get to work in a barely working car it all seems so cruel. When you have to kill a kid you have been tube feeding for months because it is dying from its natural instinct to eat hay with a nonfunctioning jaw, you doubt your lifestyle. The frustration and lack of control in a setting you have created sometimes leads to depression.

Dianne would go back 10 years and build a house on a permanent foundation instead of the creosoted posts that allow the house. to sway with any human motion inside. We always got animals before we planned cleaning up after them. We never seem to have an easy time with our projects, something Dianne blames on lack of planning. I wouldn't have tried half the things we have failed at if I had been in charge.

On the other hand we have success we don't notice. Our outhouse lasted 14 years. We just moved it to a new location. Our water was always there, just hard to pump. We have had the house so warm we have melted candles at 40 below. We may not win them all but we are still confident in trying.

We are still homesteading because we can't conceive of living anywhere else any other way. We are poor enough to qualify for social assistance but we make do with what we have.

After years of taking sponge baths, for the last year or two we have been swimming once a week at a public pool. We have a sauna, a hot tub, a swimming pool and hot showers once a week where others have a small tub, a little shower and hot water all the time. Poor them.

We have a circle of friends who are homesteaders. We have also lived with neighbours who aren't homesteaders. We had a horse lover who wasn't physically capable of feeding it, a drug/alcohol dependent type who used to have fun with a shotgun early in the morning and our current neighbour seems to have started a tire dump. We haven't a lot in common with them. They all seemed to use the country for space but not to create an environment that has a life of its own.

From what we know of our children some have benefitted and some haven't benefitted from a homesteading upbringing. Our eldest daughter returns from her city apartment for the peace of our lifestyle. Our oldest son has no interest in ever leaving home. He has grown into the digger of outhouse holes, the chainsaw operator and the kid with two wrecked trucks plugging up our yard while he waits to assemble a good one from their pieces. He rototills and hauls water, builds fences and enjoys the physical labour and the results of patient enterprises. The younger daughter longs for a city lifestyle and resents us, our lifestyle and our home. The younger son enjoys video games and riding on the back of his brother's motorbike with equal happiness. He is 10 and has helped with carrying water to the back garden, helped gather eggs and helped stack firewood. He loves shoveling manure.

We will die as homesteaders. Unplanned, unprepared death will get us as we build a basement or during wood gathering or trying to drive the stock back to the barn. Maybe we will die snug in our beds while the trees sigh from a winter storm. We will die here, fighting to complete our dreams.

Dianne has started raising a Karakul flock, more to keep the breed alive than thoughts of profit. I would like to put a basement darkroom/studio in and run teaching seminars from the homestead. Notice Dianne is doing something and I am planning something. Both are part of homesteading and both are possible here, beyond the sidewalks.
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Author:McGregor, Dianne; McGregor, Ken
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Previous Article:"Expect the best and prepare for the worst." (Lessons Learned, Changes Accepted, in the Last 10 Years of Homesteading)
Next Article:Spend your "free time" working around your place.

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