Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness

This week has been super busy, but I’ve managed to already run three times, with one more weekend run coming up–this is more than my average number of runs per week, but I love running in this weather. I overheat in the summer, no matter how many electrolytes I drink. To some, maybe putting on shorts and a short-sleeved t-shirt in 8C weather with wind and cold rain isn’t exactly comfortable, but a quick rubbing of my arms now and then and the natural heating up due to creating energy is key.

I’ve thought a lot about comfort this week as I’ve also been doing my last edit on Ron Melchiore’s book Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness, which I’m publishing in February. Ron is an amazing person who has done so many things in his life that led up to him writing about his life. It makes my jogging blog seem so pale in comparison. He has not only hiked the entire Appalachian Trail and ridden a bike across the US, he learned all the skills to build his own home and survive in the wilderness of Saskatchewan. He and his wife Johanna have lived near Hockley Lake for years now. While they both maintain a home they built, Ron excels at woodworking, construction, plumbing, electrical work, and so on while Johanna gardens, bakes, cooks, cans, freezes, sews, and so many other things. This incredible team lives entirely off grid, relying on solar and wind power, with the use of a wood stove at times, to keep warm, keep the house well insulated, and keep fed. They’ve had run-ins with bears and wildfires way too close for comfort. They do everything themselves and make two trips a year to the nearest town for food and supplies, and they work parts of the year at isolated tent camps up north, which are for mining, so that they can buy supplies and pay their taxes and upkeep. It’s just amazing to me.

As I read through the book I wondered if I could live a life like that. In my head, I want to say yes. Their experiences are dreams of mine: seeing northern lights through their window and going outside on a brisk winters night to watch the sky’s magic, hiking through the woods any time of the year, bird-watching and having certain birds come to feed out of their hands, living a self-sustaining life and learning to do everything right like canning, sewing, freezing, gardening (things at which I have never truly learned to do well except for maybe gardening). However, I am not sure I could be that far from people all the time. I am a loner, for sure. I hate malls and crowds and traffic. I would prefer to be in the country, away. I am truly impressed with Ron and his wife Johanna, but don’t know if I have the same strength as they do. Still, reading the book again reminds me of my desire to some day live further away from civilization. Maybe a compromise (like near Slocan Lake!).

Unfortunately, it takes money to set up such an adventure like theirs, and though we have more than we need, we do not exactly have a huge savings to start a life like that. And, most importantly, my husband spent his first years of life knowing how hard it was living on a remote ranch in the interior. Though he is certainly handy with woodworking and anything else he puts his mind to, I think he’s more of a people person–even though, like me, he’s definitely not a social butterfly. He likes the world of technology and working in it, and he loves going to movies. So city life is appealing to him. He likes occasionally hanging out with friends. I think I’m more of a loner than he is, but still, I need to see my family often, even if once or twice a year.

But there is a certain sense of that kind of life that Ron and Johanna live that is super-appealing to me, and that is that it’s hard work and not full of lazy comfort like we have it in civilization. I think it’s important, like when I run in cold rain, to expose one’s self to the elements and to be able to appreciate discomfort and some hardship. It allows you to really appreciate luxury when it happens, and when I say luxury I mean seeing the Aurora Borealis out your window or having your own lake to canoe around, not having that fashionable scarf or perfect sofa or sportscar. Living a lazy life of comfort, I think, leads to the kind of convenience much of our world feels entitled to today, which leads to excessive consumerism and the manufacture of so many needless items that over-saturate our world with pollution and excess natural resource extraction. Meanwhile, hard work, as with the Melchiores at their Saskatchewan home, is full of so many rewards that are so much more meaningful.

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