Experiments

First clear the road, then park the trailer

After three years of saving, planning and self-educating, this young couple is ready to leave the lights of Winnipeg. Come October 2010, they’ll live off their newly purchased, 90-acre plot of land outside the small town of Vita, Manitoba.

“I never saw myself in a suit,” said Graeme Schulz when Geez asked what motivates him and his wife, Julie, to pioneer in rural Manitoba. After three years of saving, planning and self-educating, this young couple is ready to leave the lights of Winnipeg. Come October 2010, they’ll live off their newly purchased, 90-acre plot of land outside the small town of Vita, Manitoba.

Geez staffer Michelle Elrick is friends with Julie and Graeme. She sat down and talked with them about their move from the convenience and comforts of the city to the rigours of a self-sustaining life off the grid.

Geez: What you are about to do requires a big commitment. Where does your motivation come from?

Graeme: It comes from a desire for real reality. In the city, people work to pay off debt, or toward some illusion of wealth, yet are disconnected from each other and from their most basic needs. In working the land, you have less, do less and take less.

Julie: And the reward is the world around you.

Geez: I imagine that what stops many people from making a move like this is fear. Are you afraid at all?

Graeme (laughing): We’re never afraid. Having each other makes us both pretty cocky. We work well together and depend on each other. The only thing that I worry about is the wildlife – we’ve heard reports of bears, cougars and timber wolves in the area.

Julie: The other thing that will be hard is not having spontaneous gatherings with friends. I guess I fear losing those connections.

Geez: So, tell me about your plans for the summer.

Julie: Well we bought an insulated trailer (as in the box of a tractor trailer) which we will be renovating this summer into a home – installing windows, a wood stove and a composting toilet.

Graeme: But first we have to get it out there. There is no official road leading to the clearing where the trailer will be parked, so we need to wait for the ground to thaw and harden.

Julie: Then we need to cut wood for the winter, peel back sod for next year’s garden, dig a well and do some fall planting.

Geez: What about food for the winter?

Julie: It’s all done. We grew enough last summer and canned everything.

Graeme: There’s been a lot of preparation for this. We’ve been scavenging windows for the renovation, reading a lot and collecting hand-crank appliances.

Geez: Sounds like you’ve thought of everything.

Graeme: We’re not breaking completely new ground. There are others doing this sort of thing who have given us advice and ideas.

Julie: A good resource is Road to Avonlea (she laughs), which is a great [Canadian television] show by the way.

Geez: When you look around at the city, knowing that it too began with pioneers, does it seem futile to start again from the beginning? What makes your endeavour different?

Graeme: Well, we looked at the area first before buying. We looked for a small town setting with a decreasing population and few amenities.

Julie: As far as we’re concerned, this move is about becoming more connected to being natural – about finding joy in work and in each other.

Geez: Any advice?

Graeme: Don’t have debt.

Julie: I would say, “Go see it done.” You need to see the lifestyle to know that it’s not exotic or crazy. It’s simple.

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Issue 18, Summer 2010

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