I’ve talked about dropping out of society and living off the land since high school when my beloved physics teacher Mr. Ross took a year-long sabbatical to farm with his family. In 2011, my sister beat me to the punch and bought a 120-acre farm northeast of Toronto (although she has not dropped out of society). Here are a few pics.
Michelle and her husband Glenn have taken their time becoming farmers (Michelle still works full-time), and they don’t run a commercial operation. Their farm is more of a gigantic homestead-in-progress. They learn about permaculture, make maple syrup, bail hay, tend a giant apocalypse garden (my niece’s phrasing) and raise chickens and, more recently, goats.
A couple of months ago, I started working with a real-estate agent not far from my hometown in Eastern Ontario. I want a smaller piece of land than Michelle and found a few nice-looking properties online within my price range. In September, the agent took my my not-technically-ex-husband and his mum around to look at them (John lives down here but he went home for a visit). The first house (stunning online!) was a disaster and money-pit. The second farm was a commercial operation with a barn from hell. They liked the third property—a century home on seven acres. It also has a smattering of outbuildings. Last I checked, it’s still available.
Yes, I could buy a farm somewhere else in the US but if I decide to leave Northern California, I’d prefer to return to the Olde Country. I’ve been weighing the pros and cons.
First period: Food
No more Philz tea, to which I am highly addicted. Tea is my only vice (depending on whom you talk to). However, I have started brewing mead, and because I will work fewer hours in Canada at a real job, I will have time to perfect my mead, so I may in fact nurture a worse vice. So that’s really two strikes against Canada. Then again, I can keep bees on my farm and I will also have a drilled or dug well. All I need to make mead is raw honey and water, so I could become a self-sufficient alcoholic. Score: 0-0
In Canada, I will have goats, chickens and a large organic vegetable garden. Score 1-0 for Canada
I can buy raw milk in glass jugs where I live. Score 0-1 for California
I can raise goats and milk goats and drink raw goat milk in Canada. Score 1-0 for Canada
Think of the blog posts! Goat cheese, fermented vegetables from the garden, non-stop homesteading. Score 1-0 Canada
Second period: Politics
Prime Minister Harper versus President Obama. Obama did just strike a momentous climate deal with China. Harper? Thank him for the Alberta tar sands. Score 0-1 for California
But…Justin Trudeau. Score 1-0 for Canada
For my American readers, you must understand this: Justin Trudeau is the son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, one of the greatest prime ministers of Canada, in power from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984. My uncle was a liberal MP when Trudeau first came to power. At my grandmother’s house, two pictures hung prominently on her living room wall: one of Jesus next to one of my uncle shaking Trudeau’s hand.
Yes I realize you can’t vote for a politician based on smoking-hot good looks or primogeniture. But…mon dieu! If I move back, I might actually watch Question Period on CPAC (the Canadian equivalent of CSPAN).
Third period: Location
I will have little to no mortgage or rent to pay. I love living in Silicon Valley, especially in my intentional community, but it’s outrageously expensive to live here and I don’t work for Google. How expensive? Last summer, my friend rented out her modest apartment through Airbnb while she vacationed in London and Paris, where she rented similar flats. She turned a profit. Score: 1-0 for Canada
I have begun to teach fermentation workshops and love it. I have a huge market here. I won’t in the small town I’m looking at. Score 0-1 for California
I can wear flip flops most days in California. Score 0-1 for California
I will leave all my friends behind in California. Score 0-1 for California
I will be closer to my friends and my family in Canada. Even my daughter has returned there for university. I’m not sure she’ll ever come back to the US permanently. Score 1-0 for Canada
Farming takes hard work. I told my sister I feel I need a man on the farm to help. Score 0-1 California
Michelle says I can get a donkey instead. Score 1-0 Canada
Final score: 7-6 Canada
This past week Michelle and I visited our brother Paul outside of Seattle. I did some thinking up there about all of this. I decided that I need to get divorced before I can move. So, I’ll start with that and continue to weigh the pros and cons of leaving beautiful, balmy Northern California.
What do you think? City or country?