39 Years Off Grid Homesteading: Time to Move On

Reader Contribution by Ron And Johanna Melchiore
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After what seems a lifetime, 39 years of off grid homesteading in Maine and Saskatchewan, we decided to move on. We’ve left our ultra remote homestead in northern Saskatchewan to move to a more accessible site in Nova Scotia; one that is on the ocean. You really didn’t think we were giving up on this lifestyle after all these years did you? This is a way of life for us and it’s much too late for us to tie in to the grid and become dependent on society. I know it’s been quite a spell since we last wrote so let me bring you up to date.

We were blessed to have lived in the wilderness of northern Saskatchewan for 17 wonderful years. You might remember that we wrote many Mother Earth News articles over a year ago about living ultra remote. Access to us was by float plane only and as a general rule, we didn’t see another human for 6 months at a time. Every 6 months, we chartered a float plane and did our shopping, picked up mail and took care of any appointments. We sure loved that feeling of self-sufficiency while living deep in the wilderness.

Nineteen years ago, we were faced with the daunting task and logistical challenge of flying by float plane, our worldly possessions and all the building materials necessary for a 2 story house to our remote lake homestead site. Although the house stayed when it came time to move to Nova Scotia, it was still a major chore to pack up all our belongings and appliances along with all of Johanna’s kitchen cabinets, lug everything down to the beach, fly all of it back out and ultimately drive everything across the country for a new start in Nova Scotia.

That was hard! Sure, it was a physical ordeal, but the real hard part was saying goodbye to a place we cherished. A site on a remote lake 100 miles deep in the wilderness which was all forested except for a small plot we had cleared by hand for our homestead. Hockley Lake will forever have a special place in our hearts.

Ever since we finalized the decision to move from Hockley Lake, our life has been total chaos. Most of our possessions were boxed up and much of our stuff remains in boxes. Talk about frustration. We need an item. We know we have that item. But which box holds the magic trinket we are looking for? 

We departed Saskatchewan March of 2017 and arrived in the promised land of Nova Scotia early April. We owned and had a choice of two ocean front properties from which to choose. One property was boat access only and the other had an old, overgrown logging road that needed serious work.

It wasn’t an easy choice but since we had opted for a remote property with difficult access the last time, we ultimately decided to build on the property that afforded easier entry. But that’s the only thing that was “easy”. It would have been great to pull in to the property with some semblance of a ready made homestead. But what greeted us was another forested property.

Once again we were facing a massive amount of work because of having to start from scratch on our new home site. The previous homesteads in Maine and Saskatchewan were of similar ilk. All 3 properties were forested. In Saskatchewan, we searched long and hard for our perfect site. It was virgin forest on the shoreline of a remote lake and we were able to assess the lay of the land from the vantage point of a flyover via float plane. Then when we landed to view the site from the ground, we immediately had a good idea of where the house, garden and orchard would reside.

Here in Nova Scotia, the property was all forest with even the road being overgrown with alder. After all these years, we know exactly what criteria our perfect homestead location should possess but thrashing through the forest made it quite difficult to assess the land and envision the final product. Especially when the growth is so dense in places, one can barely bull their way through. Complicating matters is the fact that this is a large woodlot with over a mile of ocean frontage to choose from. Where to begin??

One has to rely on their instincts and judgment to visualize in their mind what the future homestead will look like once a patch of forest becomes cleared land.  In future posts I write, I will go into depth on the selection and decision making process we took to ultimately call this spot the right place. I’ll detail our house building and orchard and garden endeavors.

Once we flagged out our site, it was time to have an excavator recover the gravel road that runs across the property, build a new section of driveway and clear a small patch of ground where we lived in a tent for roughly a year while we built our house. That was quite a novelty to be able to drive a car on our new road to our tent dwelling. The last time we could drive a car to our house was 18 years ago when we lived in Maine.

Can you imagine living in a tent for almost a year? Actually it wasn’t too bad. We had acquired lots of experience with tent living when we built our homestead in Saskatchewan. Last year we survived a Nova Scotia winter while living in a large canvas tent that was a couple hundred feet from the ocean. Those months proved quite interesting. Especially when we had multiple high wind events including one with hurricane force winds. To say we were living in a noisy, flapping tent would be an understatement.  Our Windy Tent Thankfully we didn’t get blown in to the next County nor did we freeze to death. Although at times, we were a bit chilled. To be honest, we essentially lived with hat and coat on. But in reality our new location is like the tropics compared to where we previously lived.

Join me next time when we will thrash through the forest together searching for the perfect spot to call home.

Ron Melchiore  and his wife Johanna are currently building a new homestead on the coast of Nova Scotia. Ron is the author of Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness published by Moon Willow Press  and is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Connect with Ron at In the Wilderness and on Facebook and Pinterest . Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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