Choosing a Homestead Life for our Homeschool Family

It’s a homestead life for us!

Not all six of our homeschool family thought living an hour away from town, off-grid, in a 500 square foot cabin was a fabulous idea when I first came up with that idea nearly ten years ago.

My husband reminded me that we’d have three teenage girls when we built that off-grid cabin. So we didn’t. (Wise words!)

Our homestead in the Kootenay mountains
Our Homestead in the Kootenays

Instead, each of the kids got 500 square feet, one of them forfeiting their 500 this week to adultify in the city.

We now actually live twenty minutes out of town and off-grid? No! far too much Apple indulgence in this household.

Still, we’re making a homestead life for us when we’re not uber driving to extracurriculars or living the physician life (my husband).

The benefits of the Great Outdoors can not be overstated.

I think we live in God’s time when we enter the natural world.

Outside our windows are…

  • baby grizzlies (in spring and not all the time obviously)
  • osprey and bald eagle pairs (in the Douglas Fir outside my Great Room window)
  • geese parents and fish at the river a hundred feet away
  • noisy crows, clever ravens, flitting robins nesting in our eaves, greedy starling jays, woodpeckers sampling our dead trees
  • and trees: fir and birch, aspen, hemlock, lodgepole pine, larch, and cedar.

I haven’t seen caribou and moose, but I have stopped for a herd of elk crossing the road (why do the elk cross the road?)

Every day I dodge deer, hear our dog yell at them to stay away from my hydrangea (or so I hope she’s telling them).

I’ve also heard…

  • of a threesome of cougars living in an old farm vehicle
  • skunk babies have stolen our cats’ food
  • the spring trickle of mountain water collects in our tiny pond as it descends towards the Kootenay River and a river to canoe.

A nature lover I am.

the kids and their dad canoeing home from the local island.
The kids and their dad canoeing home from the local Island.

Learning to attend to homestead animals has its own benefits.

I was a suburban kid growing up.

I had…

  • the indoor amenities of television and telephone
  • school playgrounds and cement sidewalks
  • a five-minute walk to a convenience store,
  • and domesticated animals: poodles and cats and goldfish.

Learning to nurture a baby chick to laying hen was not my thing.

Learning that if I tap a metal compost can, nine hens and one rooster will come toddling after me no matter how far they’ve free-ranged.

Learning to acknowledge the will of a Great Pyrenees puppy is right up there in training a toddler to stay on her bed for naptime or sometimes, is right up there with teaching a ball not to fall DOWN when dropping it from the roof.

Learning that my puppy’s playfulness with all moving things might overwhelm a sick hen and require me to learn about mercy killing, chopping blocks, and axes, and dealing with the trauma of killing an animal, even one that I’ve been consuming my entire life.

Learning to deworm cats, learning why we vaccinate and neuter, or why we breed instead, was all a learning curve for me.

One more step toward connecting with creation.

My Great Pyr Violet watching the chickens
My Great Pyr, Violet, watching the baby chicks

Botany is a natural learning experience.

Everything from vegetable gardening to growing a fruit orchard to planting pretty perennial gardens to foraging morel mushrooms and saskatoons and rosehips and wild strawberries and plantains in the Kootenay mountains abundance is satisfying.

I hated picking weeds when I grew up.

My mom still marvels that I even want to go outside, cause I didn’t like that either. I was more of a “Little House on the Prairie” tv series-watching gal. (Naturally, I still read those to my kids, no matter how old they are.)

Yes, I could shop at the grocery store or order meals pre-packaged.

But now I know something that I didn’t know in my city-dwelling, apartment-living days, the time spent in the garden is fully present living.

It’s satisfying to participate in the creation of my own food.

It’s satisfying just to dwell in the great outdoors.

  • Yes, it comes with a massive learning curve.
  • Yes, it’s a whole heck of a lot of work.
  • Yes, the work never ends.
  • And yes, the kids still don’t want to eat vegetables.

But it is deeply satisfying work.

my homestead garden
My homestead garden

The slow walk toward self-sufficiency.

I won’t invest in compost toilets but I know people who do. I won’t pee in the garden, but I keep reading about the benefits.

But I think differently now. “Can I do this task myself?”

Do I need to call a plumber, a carpenter, a tradesperson, my husband, or can I do it myself or learn how to do it?

Truly, the answer is often, ‘I’m out of my league’.

Duct tape or a hot glue gun won’t work for this project. But before I call someone, I will surely search for the answer first.

I’ve learned that being self-sufficient is an incredible amount of work. I know people who head to the grocery store for toilet paper and chocolate once a year, but I’m not on the path towards that.

  • I do learn how to stock the pantry in case a snowstorm has us in lockdown and I have candles and matches available for pretty frequent electrical shortages.
  • I have brought pails of river water to the garden in the heat of summer.
  • I know how to make coffee on the tiny butane tripod and build a fire to make breakfast in the firepit.
  • I know the value of packing the freezer, canning the pantry full, making my own bread, preparing my own granola, bbq sauce & yogurt, keeping a sourdough starter and water kefir.
  • I hope to milk goats and consume my own caught fish from the river.
  • And maybe my son will hone his bow hunting skills and we’ll fill the freezer.

Kitchen island vegetable bounty
My sourdough offerings

Focussed time.

Take away the power of communal energy and you get time to think, time to contemplate, time to focus on what you want.

Every time I visit the big city, I realize how small I am.

There are so many people on this earth. I love the variety, the shopping options, but I can’t stand the soul-sucking, time-wasting driving effort.

All that time I would rather have sat at the edge of the river, tapping on this PC or getting my fingers in the dirt and relishing in God’s time.

Me writing at my study table
I can also write in my study.

Meet new people.

There’s something about a homestead that enables community connections.

Folks might not see the world exactly the same way, but we help each other out. We strive to honour the needs of others around us. This kind of community is a whole different kind of satisfying that you don’t get when packed sardine-like in any city dwelling.

A new development for us this past year: Giverny of the Mountains Homestead Bed and Breakfast. We have hosted people from all around the world and shared our homestead with dozens.

You can learn more about the gradual development of our homestead:

There is no doubt that I signed up for a whole lot more work when we decided to bring our homeschool family to live on a homestead. But the work is life-giving itself.

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