It’s hard to define exactly why we are doing what we are doing. Our motivations and expectations can change from month to month and year to year. I’m not sure if this is true for everyone, but I suspect it is part of the human condition.
As far as being in nature, and close to nature, I think my first real yearning for that came growing up in Wellesley and having “My Side of the Mountain” read to us in public school. It really planted the seed of being independant, and in nature, but still being connected to a select group of close, like-minded friends.
Back in Kitchener, married and with a child, we had rewarding jobs (either through satisfying work, or satisfying pay), a cute house in a nice neighbourhood, friends and family close by, and many amenities.
But still, like many people, we yearned for more space around us, more freedom to set our own schedules and make more of our own choices.
We also felt that we could make a more sustainable future for our future generations by trying to provide more of our own food and energy.
It’s funny how so far into the project we are learning that living “off the land” is more capital intensive than we first expected. We figured that shortly after getting here we would be providing for a good percentage of our own inputs (food, energy). The truth is that aside from a few blueberries and saskatoons, we have probably ended up with much LESS of our own supplied food than in the city. This is still something we are hoping to significantly change though. The priorities of shelter, water, and heat have all taken precedence over food – which in Canada is still an amazingly cheap commodity to purchase.
While we supply all our own energy for heating ourselves, our food, and our water, it does come at a small cost in terms of the chainsaw and tractor. The initial costs of those items, and the ongoing costs of repair and petrol for them will likely mean that the cost/benefit analysis must be looked at over a longer term than we may have hoped.
This experiment has been a real eye-opener though. While we haven’t been driven back to the city, we are learning that it has its own marvelous attributes to offer.
It’s nice to be out here in nature, but it also does mean that trips to the grocery store burn much more fuel than they did in the city.
It’s nice to be off-grid using solar power, but it is expensive, and needs to be rationed carefully.
We’re especially blessed to be able to spend so much time together as a family. We have been playing board games and helping Kenny with his projects and really getting a chance to form close bonds with one another. But it can be difficult to also sleep together in the same room, and, most of the winter, in the same bed!
As long as we keep focused on the progress we are making month by month, we can see how much better our standard of living is becoming. But to compare to the luxuries provided by on-grid or city living it’s easy to feel like we’ve moved backwards.
One personal commitment I made in this project is that I would try very hard to not have to give up any of the gains society and technology can provide, while still reducing our footprint on the planet and simplifying our lives. So far I think we are still on track for this, although it is more challenging than one would first expect.
Fundamentally, I try to look at all this as a giant experiment. In fact, Donna coined a phrase we have used many times here – “experiments in homesteading”. Whenever I come up with a crazy solution to our problems that fails, she helpfully reminds me that those are just as important as the successes.
For us, this isn’t really, or wasn’t really, a choice of an “unconventional” lifestyle. But perhaps it has worked out that way. We wanted it to be more of an “early-adopter” lifestyle, reflecting where we think perhaps many people will go, or want to go, in the future. And we can try to help them find an easier, faster, more rewarding path to their own peaceful and prosperous life.
To anyone contemplating a similar lifestyle change, I would suggest that having a good support network (and buckets of money) are integral. We couldn’t have accomplished half of what we have here without Mummu and Grandpa nearby.
Additionally, I am finding the most difficult part of this endeavour to be the mental one. This past holiday season was difficult for me. The passing of my Grandfather and family friend in the south, and people providing more skeptical questions than positive affirmations of our work here was a bit demoralizing. One needs to have a good sense of self confidence and the ability to appreciate the absurd to pass through these fires unscathed.
Surely the most important part of any “success” we are having here is because of having a loving and supportive wife and partner in Donna. Her patience with the conditions we are living in is biblical in proportion! It is hard to imagine how even the smallest victories could be enjoyed without her there to share in creating and appreciating them.
So I suppose to answer the original question, I feel that the main compulsion to be here is to give us more freedom, both with our time, and our choice of labour – while at the same time letting us move towards a more sustainable and involved future with our son.