Before we started the homestead in the bush we looked far and wide for a “turn key homestead” that would meet our needs and be within our means. After the housing crash in 2008, there were some genuine bargains in rural areas where we would have been content to settle. Unfortunately, we lacked the resources to acquire a ready built homestead without going into debt, something we are trying very hard to avoid at this stage of life. Our modest savings did allow us to purchase the fifty acres of bush that has been our home for the last year and a half. When a long awaited family legacy finally became available this year, we determined to make one last attempt to find a turn key homestead before we settled down to the long grinding process of building the house, workshop and all the related off-grid infrastructure. Our latest search seemed to confirm that the market had fully recovered and that we had been priced out of any option but building it ourselves. On what we both agreed was our last day of viewing properties, our realtor turned to us as we were leaving a particularly overpriced garbage heap, and said “there is one more place I would like to show you, it is not listed yet.” Fine… whatever, the afternoon was already shot.
Down about a mile of country roads, we came upon a farmyard with a massive mature shelterbelt surrounded by yellow canola fields. As we headed up the driveway, the house suddenly appeared to the left tucked securely in a grove of mixed evergreen and deciduous trees. Further along the driveway was a completely original CPR station freight and mail shack that had been moved on to the property. At the north end of the yard stood a large metal building just waiting to become a workshop. Scattered around the property were a number of small outbuildings in varied condition. There was a large vegetable plot, fruit trees and bushes, extensive perennial beds and all of the other indicators of a homestead that had been nurtured and maintained over the decades. The house had been built in 1958 and had extensive additions added in the 1970s including an attached double garage. It was well maintained and tastefully done inside and out. The asking price was at the top of our price range, but the property on 6.25 acres offered more value than anything we had seen. After a night spent re-crunching the building budget, we decided to make an offer. A short negotiation later we had agreed on a purchase price and possession date.
If we did not already own the large woodlot on the first acreage, it would have been harder to make sense of this choice. The new house is currently heated with oil, at a cost of 3-4 thousand dollars a year. Our plans call for additional heated spaces including the attached 2 car garage, the main workshop and two greenhouses. An outdoor wood boiler seems the most reasonable and economic way to go. Although the distance between the properties is about 25km, it seems a reasonable solution. The banner of “Walden Puddle Homestead” will be moving to the new location on October 31, and this acreage will be re-designated “Walden Puddle Farm”.
I am a bit disappointed that we will not have the chance to design and build the entire homestead from a blank sheet of paper. If I had a decade to spare (and cash resources to match) it would have been interesting to put all of our ideas into practice. On the upside, the rigors of rustic living will be eased straight away and I know this will make my life partner E, a happier person. Another benefit is that with so much of the building done, I will be able to focus more time and effort on the real payoff of homestead living, which is the production of food and farm income.