It was the summer of 1997. I had just turned 24 and bought my first house. I was delighted with my big yard and yearned to make it a magical Eden where my daughters could play with fairies, food would grow, and there would be nothing but love, peace and harmony, (think Lenny Kravitz’s I Build This Garden for Us).
That August laying on a blanket in the sunshine I read one of the most influential books of my life, The Good Life by Scott And Helen Nearing.
The book chronicles Scott and Helen Nearing’s journey as they leave the city, build their own home which they heat with wood they chop themselves. They grow their own food and establish a sustainable homestead. While I’d been active in the environmental movement since the early 90s, the idea of individuals living a sustainable lifestyle was a new concept for me at the time. I felt a small twinge of regret that I hadn’t picked up the book the year before or waited to purchase a large property where I could build my own sustainable homestead. But as I surveyed my new property I decided to work with what I had and one day I would make my dream of a sustainable home a reality.
My first attempts at gardening were pathetic to say the least but I kept trying. I refused to ‘work’ in the garden and would only ‘play’ in the garden. The years passed by. My garden successes became a little more, and the failures a little less. My daughters played less with fairies but still spent time outside reading, writing and having camp-outs with their friends.
Three years ago we bought our second house in the woods of Quebec. It was perfect. The house sat on 2 acres of woods and was a 30 second walk to a lake. Large windows filled the home and no matter where in the house you went, you had a magnificent view of nature. Deer visited us all winter and in the spring I saw my first Indigo Bunting. There was a forced air furnace that was fuelled by wood. We discussed purchasing more land in the future so we could sustainably harvest our own wood for heat. The sandy soil seemed to hold no weeds but everything I planted flourished. That second summer I was able to grow all my own vegetables and melons.
It was beautiful. We were happy…..but we also knew that we were still waiting for things to recover from the recession of 2008. While my husband kept busy working around the property he missed his trade. The trades in Quebec and Ontario were still suffering (and still are) and while he applied for hundreds of other jobs he got few callbacks. Finally, we knew that we must do what many other Canadians of different eras did and move west where the opportunities were.
So here I am-40 years old. I still don’t have my sustainable homestead but I have learned a lot over the years. I still dream of having a sustainable homestead and each year in my own little way I do things that help my family be a little more independent. This year I worked at a farmers’ market and one perk was taking home produce that didn’t sell. I have now put my food preservation skills to the test.
This year I also planted the cherry tree above. It is actually 4 trees of 4 different varieties that will grow together as 1. It will take 3 years before I see a yield.
I have a strong belief that gardening is an act of hope. A gardener hopes that Mother Nature will co-operate and their plants will survive and thrive. A gardener also hopes that they will still be here to see the results of their hard work. But in the end a gardener plants because a gardener must.
Perhaps your idea of a Good Life is very different from mine. But never give up on pursuing your Good Life. Whether you are 18 or 88 do something this month that honours your deepest, most precious dreams. As for me-I have apple trees on the way 🙂