Darkness was falling when I pulled on winter boots, slipped into an old coat and tromped out into the snow-covered world. Supper was roasting in the oven and I wanted to haul in a few loads of firewood before my man got home from work.
An armload or two deposited in the wood box, I then went to lock up our poultry for the night. Light streamed from the open door and when I saw all birds were present and accounted for, I closed things up and headed back toward the Mountain Cottage.
Halfway back, I stopped. Even since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved dusk. There’s something so peaceful and calming about it all. The day is winding down, activities are drawing to a close and quietness seems to hover over the earth. Whenever I’m outdoors, and I always want to stop and listen.
What for, I don’t know. The silence, I suppose.
And then I had a flashback to the days when I craved this life. It made me think about our story and the journey my man and I undertook to get here.
If you’ve been with me for a while, you likely know about it all But for those of you who are new, let me tell it again.
Where the Journey Began
It all began just after we got married and started doing life together.
My man and I were trying to settle in a northern oilfield town where he had previously worked. The pay was high, we had a tiny home on an acreage where there was space for gardens, keeping poultry and raising the good food my body required.
Renting from an uncle at an affordable price, settling into a new community and “enjoying” our first months of married life…what could possibly go wrong?
Truth is, we were struggling to adjust to life in this new place.
We Didn’t Fit in With the Culture
While originally a quiet farming community, the oilfield had transformed our town into a fast paced, money driven, materialistic culture. I’m not saying there weren’t good people there. But the general culture revolved aruond money and most households had a double income as well.
My man and I have always been simple in our life choices, our faith and values. And a few months in, we began to realized that there was a disconnect between us and the community. We didn’t really fit in.
And it wasn’t easy to form relationships with people whose life revolved around work, spending money, buying bigger trucks, faster sleds (aka snow mobiles) and expensive clothes. We also didn’t like the fact that everyone seemed to be up to their eyeballs in debt.
We always felt so lucky when we found simple minded folks in that community. Like a breath of fresh air, they were!
Being newly married, of course we were thinking about kids as well. And we slowly began to realize that we actually didn’t want to raise our children in that culture.
It Was a Harsh Climate for Growing Food and Raising Animals
One of the things I had learned early on in my journey to healing from Lyme disease was that food matters. And I always felt much better when I consumed meals made with clean, home raised food.
We knew that my health must continue to improve if we were going to have children. And we needed to get set up in a place where we could raise fruit, vegetables and our own meat. I knew that being able to preserve clean food for winter would be a big help as well.
But folks? Living in northern Canada with it’s -40 winters wasn’t the place to do this! While things grow quickly in the summer (thanks to long hours of daylight), the season is short. Winters are harsh on animals and they definitely consumed more feed trying to stay warm.
Your barns and chicken coops have to be well built. And keeping animals watered can be a challenge.
We quickly realized it was harder and more expensive to raise your own food in a northern climate.
The Cost of Living Was Too High for One Income
A few months after we settled into our new home, we set our attention on finances. My man is a natural saver and he was especially keen on getting out of the rental game. Wasted money, he called it. And I was in agreeance with him.
But after making a budget, we quickly realized we would need 2 incomes if we were going to get ahead financially. And that was a problem, because I couldn’t work a job. My health wouldn’t hold up to the strain. No, not even part time.
When we had to leave our rental home because of mold issues, we discovered the town had 0 vacancy. The few options available were short-term only, and we would have to carry the owner’s mortgage payments.
And that was the last straw. We began considering a move.
Defining Our Values and Priorities
To get clarity, we sat down and wrote up a list of things we wanted in our lives and from a community of people. Here are some of the things that were on it.
- We wanted a place where clean housing was available and affordable.
- Where money was concerned, we wanted to be able to put away a portion of every pay cheque and not just live month to month.
- My man wanted to be in a place where land was cheaper.
- A longer growing season and milder climate was high on the list of priorities; good food was a must.
- We both loved the outdoors and wanted to live in the mountains.
- It was important that the community had a good church.
- Being in a place where folks valued simple living was something we craved.
- We wanted a frugal-minded community where people took time to enjoy one another without the toys and stuff.
List made, we pulled out our worn and torn Atlas roadmap. And the search began!
Just 5 months later, we stuffed our mini van full of personal belongings and moved 1,200km to a quiet little farming community in the south.
Yes, this is us on our way down!
A Year Long Trial of the South
We are cautious when it comes to making big life decisions. So we decided to give the valley a 1 year trial, long enough to get over the honeymoon phase and time enough to explore the community. Were the people down to earth? Was the growing season what we’d hoped for? Could my man find a steady job? Was land in the price range my man felt comfortable with?
We found a good rental in town and settled there. That first year, we “dated” the community, exploring and learning all we could about it. And when the first year was up, we knew we’d found the place. This was going to be our new home.
The Journey of Saving Money
Once we decided to stay, we threw ourselves into saving money! We both hate debt and if we had to get a mortgage to buy land and build a clean home, we wanted to make a large down payment.
So we created a detailed budget and began saving every penny we could. My man continued to work as an apprentice carpenter. The payout was lower than his northern wage but interestingly enough, we were able to save far more of it!
It was good feeling, but I have to confess that at this time, I began struggling with my new position as a wife and homemaker.
I struggled with the fact that I couldn’t help out financially. So I tried to work part time. But it was no use. I only made myself sicker and we spent a large chunk of money reversing the negative side effects work had caused in my weak body.
I felt so stuck and helpless to help.
In listening to a podcast one morning, it suddenly clicked. I heard the words: “saving isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about how much you save from the amount you do make” (Melissa Norris).
And in that moment, I realized even if I couldn’t earn a pay cheque, I could help build our savings by doing more at home, so we spent less of my man’s income!
In the months (and even years) to come, I became an avid DIYer. Instead of making 70% of our meals from scratch, I started making all of our meals from scratch. I bought dry goods in bulk. I grew bigger gardens and preserved more food.
We simplified our lives and refused to spend money unless it was in the budget. And with both of us pulling, we reached our goal 3 years later.
The Search For a Suitable Piece of Land
Even before the money was fully saved for a 25% downpayment, we began searching for land. We wanted to build our own home because 1) we could build much cheaper than we could buy and 2) we wanted to be sure it didn’t have mold issues.
My heart was filled with longing to be settled somewhere in the countryside! I craved the quietness of nature, to have my own gardens, dark starlit nights and be in a home I could make my own. And I often prayed that God would see fit to bless us and open doors to something that would be a good fit.
After nearly a year of searching, we found a piece of land 15 minutes out of town. We were delighted with the fact that it was a private sale, as it allowed us to skip realtor fees.
Nearly 3 acres, it was the perfect size. All the land was flat and usable. We went for it.
Buying Land & Building a Home
In the late summer of 2018, we bought land in the countryside. It was in a wild area and surrounded by mountains. We liked that.
Initially, we worked weekends falling trees and clearing areas on the land. And when my man’s time off work began in early winter, he went at it with everything he had!
You can watch the first video in our house building series below.
Or you can watch all of them HERE.
We moved up onto the property so things would move along faster and spent the winter in a power shed. It took us a year to build our simple, cottage-style home from start to finish.
And even before our home was finished, I began putting in my kitchen garden!
Remembering the Past
There’s still so much to do on this wild piece of land, it’s easy to forget all that we have accomplished.
And on that particular evening when I was returning to the cottage after locking up our poultry, I had a flashback to the days when we were saving for this place. I remembered the longing in my heart and how I craved the quietness of the countryside! To have gardens just off the kitchen. And be settled in a home that was my own.
It’s easy to forget where you’ve come from, isn’t it?
I’m grateful for those quiet moments that remind me. Because I don’t want to take this life for granted, or forget what we went through to get here.
Those times were tough. I thought of the ways in which we denied ourselves during those years of saving. How we tried to be patient and wait for the “right” land to appear on the market. How we broke our backs to clear this land and build our little cottage.
From start to finish, it was nearly a 5 year endeavor. And I remembered the many days when I felt as if I just couldn’t keep going.
But I’m so glad we stuck with it.
Because now, we’re here. And I’m so grateful for that!