I have always found an interest in the ways of the original Homesteaders. They worked hard, did the best they could and had to be innovative, but felt extremely blessed and thankful to have what they did. In a lot of ways, I can relate.
Growing up in Southern Saskatchewan, Canada, we lived on a number of dairy farms and so when we moved to town the farming life was always ever present. Where possible we got what we could from the local farmers and always had a huge garden that my mother would can and preserve. During that time, as small town kids did, I worked for various farmers in the area. But being that both my parents worked in the later years, it was the kids responsibility to cook, clean and tend the garden. Being the oldest, my cooking and baking skills were quickly developed. As I had been gardening since a young age, those skills were being continually developed. Fast forward to graduation and I spent a couple years living in the city while I attended post secondary college, graduating with a diploma in Renewable Resources Technology. During that time, the preference was always for home made so I started down the road of bread baking, desserts and small scale preservation.
After graduation from college, I got a job in the Forest Industry with the Government of Saskatchewan and moved to Northern Saskatchewan, Canada. Although I lived in town, I was blessed in that I was able to have small gardens in my city lot. But as the years went on, the desire for more homemade products was strong and I managed to secure a huge garden plot at a friends parents dairy farm. It was a 20 minute drive, but the freedom to plant a huge garden was wonderful, the reprieve from the city life was rejuvenating, and bonus was I was able to get milk. With the huge garden it brought on the need to develop a new skill set and that was to learn how to can all the produce I was growing. After much trial and error and phone calls to my Mom, I was able to successfully fill my pantry shelves with pickles, relishes, jams, jellies and many more homemade items. I was working outside of my comfort zone for some of it, but like all things, after diving in it got easier and easier each time.
Although I could not afford to buy a home in the country at the time, my work took me to the bush on a weekly basis, the garden gave me the alone time to reconnect with nature and myself, and going to ride horses at a local arena gave me that farm feel. One would think it all would suffice, but the desire to live in the country was strong!
So in 1992 I started looking around and was able to find an abandoned acreage situated on 80 acres of aspen forest and grassland. As it was about to be taken back by the bank, I was able to pick it up for a really good price. But it needed work, lots and lots of work. So for the first month I worked many long hours and with the help of friends and family I was able to get the house to a point where I could live in it. And although I enjoyed it, one gets used to things not being finished and before you know it years and decades go by and some stuff is still not finished. But it is a home in the country - a homestead, a farm, an acreage.
After months of renovations, summer came around and it was time to move to the outside. A fire came through a few years before I bought so it was basically wild. Developing a yard, making a garden spot and setting up a place for chickens and other animals would encompass the next couple of years. All the while I was working outside my comfort zone and learning valuable skills that would stick with me for the rest of my days. Not unlike the homesteaders of old. And although it was not easy, the feeling I got when I sat down to a full meal and everything on the table was raised or grown by me was a feeling like none other. In that moment, it was all worth it.
I continued to work in the Forest Industry, developing a whole other skill set in plant identification, forest succession, forest regeneration, forest harvest and many other skill sets that have all helped me to develop my Boreal Homestead. And slowly over time, the homestead has been developing. But some extra income was needed and so a casual in town job was necessary. It was not the perfect scenario, but sometimes you do what you gotta do. Then a flood hit a few years back and I find myself having to do a number of things over again, but this time I am doing it differently. I am paying attention to what mother nature has shown me and trying to do things better this time. I am also doing some of the projects I have not had time for up to now.
In the fall of 2020, after 37 years in the Forest Industry, I decided that enjoying life and the Boreal Homestead Life was more important to me and so I made the decision to retire from the forest industry. I still have my casual job in town, but am devoting my time to this way of life. I spend my days learning new and old skills and techniques, canning, fermenting, baking, repairing, planning, gardening, foraging, working with the horses, washing eggs for sales, baking for sales, enjoying the wildlife and just being Thankful for the blessings I have been given.
This life is not for everyone and it can be difficult, but if you want it bad enough it can be done. It just takes time, sometimes years. I am reminded of the old Chinese proverb that says "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” I hope you will join me as we plant trees daily in the ever changing life of My Boreal Homestead Life.