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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

My Journey to a Cabin in the Woods

garden summerWelcome to City to Country – One Step at a Time. Thank you for stopping by!

Since this is my first post here, I thought I’d share a little bit about how I ended up as a ‘modern homesteader’ on a little acreage in the West Coast bush.

Growing up in a small industry town on the southwest coast of British Columbia, Canada, with a dad who loved the outdoors and friends whose parents were loggers and fishermen, you couldn’t help but be influenced by ‘the country’. We spent weekends in the mountains and on the water, mucking around alpine lakes and ocean shores, basking in silence and solace. We lunched on grilled cheese in logging camps and lounged on floats and docks where the smell of creosote mixed with the pungent funk of salty low-tide in the hot, still summer sun. We spent a lot of time outside.

Life was pretty idyllic. We didn’t have a farm, just a vegetable garden and a woodstove (which I never learned how to light!), but I had ‘homesteading’ in the blood from way, way back in my lineage. I guess you could say country living was part of me.

But as often happens in rural communities, within weeks of graduating from high school I turned my back on my small town roots and headed to the ‘big city’.  I spent the next 22 years working and building a career, making friends, attending theatre and, concerts, and enjoying all the wonders the city has to offer. But there was always that little niggling tug in the back of my mind:

“You don’t belong here.”

Fast forward a decade or so to a week I spent at a retreat center at a remote ex-commune on the coast of BC. Located on gorgeous piece of land a hundred miles or so north of Vancouver, it sat on the exact spot where a group of families homesteaded in the early 1900s. Barn, cow, pigs, turkeys, chickens, gorgeous vegetable gardens, orchard, multiple dwellings – Fiddlehead Farm had it all.

And it was the scene of one of the most life-altering weeks of my life.

The family who owned the farm were reintroducing the homesteading lifestyle to hundreds of travellers and even locals who wanted a little taste of what life could be like ‘off grid’. We even got to milk the cow. And paddle alone on a deserted mountain lake at dawn. It was incredible…  and it was the spark that ignited the dream to return to my rural roots.

It was also around this time that I got the distinct feeling that moving out of the city and learning some rural living skills was going to prove very helpful in the not too distant future. I’m no ‘visionary’, but I’ve always had a knack for tapping into the leading edge of the zeitgeist. Or to put it another way, I’ve always been a little ‘ahead of my time’. Which makes me an oddball to some… but that’s OK. It’s a label I’ll gladly accept. That said, being ‘ahead of your time’ often means you’re just a bit too far in front of the curve to turn a hunch into a business – or even a blog.

Case in point:  back in the mid-1980s, I had the thought of starting a chain of coffee stores where one could have a real ‘café’ experience with delicious coffee, like in Europe, but in Vancouver. At that time, cafes were ‘coffee shops’ served nothing but oily muffins and doughnuts and the décor was pretty cheesy, plastic, and downright grungy. So after visiting the cafes of Italy, France and Austria following high school, I was smitten with the whole idea.  Now, did I act on it?  Clearly, I did not. But the guys who started Starbucks did. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

My life is riddled with this sort of thing. Me thinking, “Wow, I should do something with this hunch!” then proceeding to just doing it myself instead of sharing it, or not doing anything at all, only to see the idea explode into the popular consciousness (or the marketplace) a couple of years later. Organically grown food, natural medicine, attachment parenting, homeschooling, carrying babies in slings rather than strollers, natural dentistry… you get the picture.

So when I couldn’t shake this idea that the old time skills of living off the land would be very valuable soon, I decided I wasn’t going to let this idea languish like all the others. Of course, people have continued to live this way since the original homesteaders. It was not a ‘new’ concept. But the idea of moving from the city to the country to reclaim some of those lost arts because you CHOSE to, and to do it with a modern twist, was pretty new at that time, at least in the mass consciousness.

Fast forward again to early 2008. After years of research and much soul-searching, I decided it was finally time to dig in and follow my dream. That September, with most of our worldly belongings in a big U-Haul, we boarded a ferry and sailed into the next chapter of our lives.

summer 2010Now, after two full years in our little cabin, a major renovation, lots of mentoring, the launch of my blog, learning a LOT about what not to do, being driven crazy by squirrels, finally quitting my day job, and meeting some truly amazing, inspiring people, I’m ready to take it to the next level.

And that level is connecting with you!

I’ve got huge plans – self-sufficiency projects we’ll be getting in the ground this year, video how-to’s, interviews with experts, and so much more. All these skills I’ve been learning will be unfolding on these pages in the coming months. I can’t wait to share them with all of you…  and I’d love to hear your ideas and feedback as we go. I’m looking forward to getting to know you and to hearing about your experiences.

My goal is to take the journey from city to country, and make it simple, accessible – and stylish!  I’ve still got so much to learn - I hope you’ll visit regularly and learn right along with me.

When I began this ‘modern homesteading’ journey, one of the things I put on my goals list was to write for Mother Earth News in some capacity.

And here we are.

I’m honoured, thrilled, and pinching myself!

This is one idea whose time has come – and I’m finally ‘right on time’.

sassan filsoof
3/31/2011 10:40:35 AM

Loved reading about your life altering change. We have much in common that way. My wife and I also made the move to a more sustainable way of life, growing our own food, raising chickens etc. It is an ongoing process, we hope to continue into the future. Look forward to hearing more....

victoria gazeley
3/15/2011 12:54:03 AM

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments, Roy - sounds like you have a lot of experience in this realm. I look forward to hearing more on my future posts - I love learning from the people who have 'done it'! Re your comments about the romantic vision of country living, I completely agree. This is why I started my blog at - to shed some light on the fact that it's not always easy, and sometimes downright maddening. But in the end, after being kept awake by squirrels, having trees fall through the roof, and the power going out for the umpteenth time (yes, I'm looking forward to having a bit more independence in the 'power' department), it's a life I can't imagine being without. Thank you again for stopping by - it's great to meet you!

roy fritz
3/13/2011 10:03:03 AM

Victoria hello.Alot of people would like to be able to do what you are trying to do. There is alot of work just in getting started. So many people think I'll just go and do it and everything will be fine. The first real life changing check comes about the first day you start to look for a place to begin your new life style. Where to start is within both of you, not on a map. I have been trying to get back to the land for years. Well I've finally almost got to the piont of going off grid, out of sight, away from people. Isolated no cell phone reception, no TV recp.,very little traffic, plenty of water, alot of fire wood, no power unless you make it. No steet lights nothing but a gravel road. No body to tell me not to start work at 6am or 4 am or even 8 pm or 9pm at night. No close nieghbors (3/4 miles away). Just what sacrafices did you make to get your land and keep it. As you start to live your life you will find that it will be awhile before you can truely succeed for it takes about three years to go off grid and live that life. To truely live life off grid you will as (everyone knows who is in that life style) you will find out that you will earn every carrot or apple or chicken egg you recieve from the land. The rewards cannot be measured in money but in the beauty of holding the seeds in your hand. Then putting them in the ground planting and caring for each one. The harvest is the grestest part and eating vegges in January you produced cannot be matched. Life is good.