My Journey to a Cabin in the Woods

Reader Contribution by Victoria Gazeley
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Welcome 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.

Now, 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’.