Our Story

William, Terry and Howard

In 2016, we sold our home in Cumberland, B.C. and said goodbye to family and friends. We had both been dreaming about living in a wild space, one with more separation from the cultural pressure we were feeling from the economic growth our community was experiencing. We had just established a small urban farm on 1/2 an acre in a growing vibrant village and had been founding members of the Cumberland Lake Wilderness Society, dedicated to wilderness education and awareness. We were, by all cultural standards and norms, on the verge of success. However, being immersed directly in an urban environment was wreaking havoc on both of us through the witnessing of over-development and the lack of relationship with the land.

After selling our home and the majority of our possessions, we hit the road with a 25 foot travel trailer and started following the threads of the dream. Four months later we found ourselves on the other side of the country. From the small village of Cumberland along the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the Atlantic in Judique, Nova Scotia on Cape Breton Island, we found ourselves becoming the stewards of 74 acres of raw land. A long, long way from home, family, and friends.

Arriving here in the spring of 2017, we found ourselves at the beginning of a homesteading adventure.  Our first year was one of landing and arriving in an environment that was far from home, and in that first year we built a small cabin and simply observed the land that we were asking to accept us as the cultural orphans we are, trying to re-member our place in a wild community that we knew nothing of.  We had both spent significant time in wild spaces and landscapes, however this was a much deeper immersion into a life in the woods living off-grid.  We also had dreams of connecting to our food, eating what we could grow, and designing permaculture systems that would create diversity and resilience as we terra formed the landscape to create a resilient human habitat.

Our process of land development has been one of building diversity.  This was a forest when we arrived and she was doing just fine without our interference, however we truly feel that this place chose us.  It is an agreement we have and continue to negotiate in order to support our human lives on this land.  

It has been a journey of hard work, sacrifice, and hardship with the greatest teachings we could have ever imagined.  For that, we can truly say we have been blessed, and we acknowledge the great privilege we have been offered.  It is certainly not for most as we continue to embrace many simplicities and forgo modern conveniences as we continue to evolve and grow with this place.  There are days that can challenge the heart and soul, especially in the realm of slow farming with only two people tending to the lives of so many.  We are still working towards a vision that at times feels impossible, especially in the shadow of the pandemic which has left us feeling uncertain of what the future holds.  We have had to shift and adjust without the required help that we had hoped for as we continue to open this place up to others for learning and creating community.  

What the pandemic has really shown us is the power of place-based localization and that systems built on support or products from afar is a truly fragile system.  The year of 2021 has been a time of reflection and introspection, especially with some of the challenges that we have had to face this past year.  It has been our most difficult season to date, and we are in a process of change.  It has meant a scaling back of our livestock systems and more focus on the development of our gardens.  It also has us looking towards our immediate community for how the future of this place will unfold.  We have taken much time to define Our Vision this year as it has been shown to us from our time here on this land.  We are excited about some of the new directions that we are stepping into in 2022, most notably designating the farm to act as an off-grid permaculture demonstration site with the formation of a non-profit to begin the creation of a continuance plan, a process of passing this land on to the community of Judique once our time has come to an end as stewards of this incredible place.  Our greatest hope is that the work that has been started here will continue beyond our time and be a resource for the community as a working commons that will benefit others for generations to come.

If we will have the wisdom to survive,

to stand like slow-growing trees

on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it…

then a long time after we are dead

the lives our lives prepare will live

there, their houses strongly placed

upon the valley sides, fields and gardens

rich in the windows. The river will run

clear, as we will never know it,

and over it, birdsong like a canopy ….

On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down

the old forest, an old forest will stand,

its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots

The veins of forgotten springs will have opened

Families will be singing in the fields

In their voices they will hear a music

risen out of the ground …..

Memory,

native to this valley, will spread over it

like a grove, and memory will grow

into legend, legend into song, song

into sacrament. The abundance of this place,

the songs of its people and its birds,

will be health and wisdom and indwelling

light. This is no paradisal dream.

Its hardship is its possibility

Wendell Berry “A Vision”

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