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Homesteadapalooza... What's That?

Sandra Phinney certainly discovers some very unique accommodations and activities during her travels in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. We are always delighted when she shares them with us. This is a really fun one. So, if you're travelling to Newfoundland this summer perhaps you'll find a homestay and/or attending Homesteadapalooza to be a great way to reset your priorities and connect with the locals!

On my last trip to Newfoundland, I was invited by a colleague to meet homesteaders Steve and Lisa McBride. What an eye-opener! But first, a little background.

In 2008, the newly-married couple were working in Vancouver and wanted to buy a house. As Lisa so aptly put it, "We were looking to build a solid foundation, somewhere we could call home, somewhere where we could afford to have dreams." 

Facing exorbitant house prices in the city, they knew they would have to move a considerable distance from Vancouver to find affordable housing. Once they decide to move, other options came to the fore. "We chose Newfoundland," Steve said, "in part because I had maternal ancestors who lived there in the 1700-1800s, in part because of its affordability, and in part because of the beautiful seaside scenery."

The couple moved to St. John's in 2008, bought an older home and did some renos. "Goodbye compliance audits, managerial huddles and quarterly business reviews," Steve said. Hello, opportunity and a chance for a richer life.

Once they were settled in they ordered two ducks online. Later, they added two goats to the menagerie and started asking themselves how they could reduce what they spend money on. Homesteading loomed large as a possibility. In 2014 they bought a fixer-upper cabin in Mobile (population 435), about 40 km from St. John's.

I'd need three full pages to describe what they've accomplished. Lisa sums it up best: "Homesteaders look to provide for themselves in all the 'do-it-yourself' ways they can. For us, it means that we keep ducks for eggs, turkeys for meat, honey bees for our sugar needs, and tap maple trees."  Their garden is bigger in square footage than their house. Rabbits provide fur and meat; goats provide milk, which in turn, is used to make cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and more.

They even make their own salt. "Wood stove panning basically distils the salt, crystallizing it on the surface of the slurry in a process called 'fleur de sel', which is free from impurities," Steve says. They often infuse their own salt by adding hot peppers (hot salt), maple syrup (sweet salt), or garlic (garlic salt). Combinations are endless.

"The homesteader network we've developed here in Newfoundland has been a great asset. We gift our surplus, others reciprocate, and we take a big bite out of what we consume by keeping our supply and production chains local."

The homesteader network Steve is referring to is a group he and Lisa formed on Facebook called "Backyard Farming & Homesteading NL" which states: This group brings together hobby farmers, homesteaders, backyard gardeners, berry pickers, mushroom foragers, beekeepers, hunters, fishers & sea-harvesters, permaculturists, animal keepers, DIY crafters, nature enthusiasts, conservationists ... basically anyone interested in ensuring food security & DIY skills for Newfoundlanders & Labradorians and for themselves. At the time of writing this story, there were 14,050 members.

Lisa and Steve not only love to share what they've learned through this Facebook group, they also set up workshops. This spring, they'll continue to host Maple Syrup events which they started seven years ago at Pippy Park in St. John's. If you happen to be in the vicinity, the dates are March 2, 10 and 16. (Last year over 1000 people took part!)

In September, the McBrides will host a two-day "Homesteadapalooza" at the Colony of Avalon (about a half hour's drive south of St. John's) where participants can select from over 20 workshops such as: making cheese, how to keep bees, foraging for wild food - and so on.

Can you visit Steve and Lisa on their homestead in Mobile? Of course! But keep in mind there's lots to do and you may be pulled into service - weeding, bottle feeding baby goats, or fixing an animal pen. If you're lucky, Steve may have time to show you some ancient and rare coins. He collects, buys, and sells them as part of his home business. As he says, "There's never a dull moment."

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