REAL ESTATE: Homesteading in the Cariboo a reality

Columnist Freddy Marks talks about why so many are looking to a ranch life when it comes to property

The trend continues, as a growing segment of college-educated Generation Y, Gen. X and late-born Boomers are selling their urban homes and moving north into B.C.’s Cariboo Region. Some are retiring, some are retiring early and a good portion are working professionals seeking security and independence the city can no longer offer them.

Homesteading, 21st century style, is what can only be explained as a return to a simpler, more self-reliant way of life. Many aspects of homesteading are becoming more appealing to families including the cost savings, financial security and the benefits of stress-free living. One can imagine the comfort that comes with knowing that your home, your food source and your way of life is sustainable by your own hand; the idea of going to the cold room to choose a jar of your own canned goods instead of driving to the store to buy something for supper.

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Couples are redefining homesteading and making it fit their life and financial goals. A Cariboo country homestead can be as grand as a custom log home on ranch acreage with, cattle or as humble as a Sea Can shipping container cabin with a wood stove and chicken coop. Some simply hope to live more sustainably by growing their own food and finding a relaxed lifestyle in their new community, while some are striving to become completely self-sufficient, growing food and raising animals and living entirely ‘off the grid’.

When searching for and vetting potential properties, location is a critical consideration. Being in an east to west valley is the most sought after as it ensures that your garden or crops will get enough sunlight to mature. A drinkable, high-volume water source is also a must-have necessity, and testing an existing well for gallons per minute and water quality should be on the list of top priorities. If you plan to raise animals having a creek, pond or spring on your property is very favourable as this makes your homestead even more desirable.

Life in the interior of the province brings both its seasonal challenges and great lifestyle rewards. Residents can expect to endure winters that can bring up to six feet of annual snow fall or more, and temperatures that can dip below -25C.

Whatever dwelling you plan to live in must be built for the climate and have a heat source that doesn’t break the bank, ensuring you will not end up with frozen water lines or a huge heating bill. When searching for a home and property, make sure it has double-pane windows and a back-up power source like a generator or wood stove. They come in handy when the power goes out and you must keep your home and animals from freezing.

Plowing your driveway and making sure emergency vehicles and the fire department can make it to your property is your responsibility as well; many communities have residents who plow snow for a living and you can hire them as needed. Your vehicle needs to be capable of travelling winter roads and must have a block heater installed so you can plug it in when temperatures go below -15C.

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On the flip side, living in a small northern community where you know your neighbours, crime rates are lower, and you can take part in all the outdoor activities that make you feel connected and more alive is worth the extra work and effort. Being able to barter or purchase locally-grown meat, catch fresh fish and grow your own garden is a rewarding and healthy way to live. You will be outdoors more, get more exercise and be closer to nature and the abundance of wildlife that shares your rural area.

Choosing a small community to relocate into is a serious decision and one that should be carefully considered. There are many welcoming communities that have the basic amenities that a homesteader needs to create a comfortable lifestyle; a gas station, grocery store and hardware store are the bare minimum of residential needs, although many rural land owners travel up to an hour or more each way to purchase their necessities in larger centres. There is also the consideration of proximity to dentists, doctors and a hospital for medical care.

The trend to homesteading in 2019 has a lot more positives than negatives, and moving to a rural location doesn’t mean giving up socializing. Most rural communities have community halls and community organizations that put on local events to bring residents together for dances, bake sales, farmers markets and holiday gatherings. If you are considering a change of pace and a more sustainable rewarding lifestyle, homesteading the Cariboo can offer the pace and place to live the lifestyle you always wanted.


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