Life on a Northern Off Grid Homestead

My name is Sarita Harbour from An Off Grid Life. I’m a homesteading mom of seven and grandmother of three. I live with my husband and our two youngest daughters on our small homestead in Canada’s subarctic.

When we first moved to our off grid home in Canada’s Northwest Territories, we had no idea how to apply our idea of “homesteading” to this seemingly barren and extremely remote area. And honestly, as a career financial advisor, most of what I knew about homesteading came from books.

Yet with our five oldest children all working or pursuing post-secondary education, my husband and I, along with our preschool daughter, decided to leave our comfortable life in Burlington, Ontario (with a short adventure in northern Alberta) for this  adventure-of-a-lifetime in the far north. And did I mention I was pregnant with our seventh child too?

Now, eight years later, we homestead, homeschool, and work from our off grid home. Trying to homestead and raise a family in this extremely cold, although beautiful, environment is a challenge and we’re always learning. We power our homestead with solar panels and diesel generators (in winter,) heat with wood and propane, and pump our water up from the lake behind our house.

We’ve adapted to the unusually compressed growing season (about 7-8 weeks, including 20+ hours of daylight in mid-June) and are learning the basics of permaculture. We added chickens and turkeys to our foraging, hunting, and fishing activities. And we’ve learned about raising poultry in -50 Celsius weather, and are now considering adding rabbits and/or goats.

As with many homesteaders, ours is a work-in-progress and the whole family participates. We’re now going into our eighth year of homeschooling, and hands-on activities are a big part of our day. Our middle daughter is the main caretaker of our mixed flock of 30+ chickens.

We enjoy gardening, nature studies, poultry husbandry and traditional homestead crafts such as knitting, crocheting, weaving, quilting, soapmaking, canning, and soon we’ll try our hands at candlemaking. And, of course, we’re always cooking and baking from scratch.

The daily opportunities for hands-on learning of practical self-reliant skills are some of the things I love most about being a homeschooling, homesteading mama.


Our first main homestead project was getting the garden going. Soil quality is very poor here. so we truck it in to build our raised vegetable bed. Over the years we’ve added compost, including chicken and turkey manure-seasoned straw.  Over the years we’ve grown a ton of potatoes, lettuce, peas, and other vegetables in our raised garden and tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and herbs indoors.

 

We enjoy gardening, nature studies, poultry husbandry and traditional homestead crafts such as knitting, crocheting, weaving, quilting, soapmaking and candlemaking. And, of course, cooking and baking.

One of my biggest challenges as a homesteading mom in a remote area was keeping the children safe when they were small. Bear, wolves, coyotes, pine martens, wildfires, the lake…it seemed danger was all around us. Now that they’re older it’s easier. However,  when they were small I kept a close eye on them, and there was a lot of “baby-wearing” in the garden!

Homesteading in the north isn’t for everyone. Yet as we strive to become as self-reliant as possible, I’ve learned so many lessons about adapting, innovating, and evolving to meet the challenges.

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