Born and raised on the farm for her first 18 years, then embracing city life for 19 years, Jen’s heart always longed for wide open skies and gravel roads. Finally, 8 years ago, she and her husband made the decision to return to their roots, settling as proud professional farm squatters on family land in the picturesque prairies of Alberta, Canada.
For Jen, homesteading isn’t just a lifestyle choice, but a passionate commitment to self-sustainability. Their farm is a haven of abundance, where most of their food is lovingly raised and harvested right on the property or exchanged with other local farms. Stepping away from the reliance on grocery stores and conventional convenient food, they savor the reward of creating delicious meals from scratch, cherishing the effort put into every bite.
Farm days are typically a whirlwind of activity, filled with preserving the garden bounty, tending the sour cherry orchard, baking, sewing, mending, knitting, hunting, foraging, and homeschooling her vibrant daughters. Speaking of which, it’s not just about tending the land; it’s about nurturing the future. Jen takes immense pride in instilling lifelong skills and wisdom in her 4 and 6-year-old girls, preparing them to be capable and well-rounded individuals who appreciate the beauty of a simple and fulfilling life.
Beyond the farm, Jen and her husband lead worship at their local church and are proficient at playing a plethora of instruments, ranging from guitar, bass, banjo, keyboard to accordion.
Do you ever worry that your kids will miss out because of this homesteading lifestyle choice? This fear crosses my mind time to time. I’m sure many, if not most of you, could agree that it can be extremely difficult to get extended time away from the homestead for more than a full day, especially in the busy summer months when daily chores demand our regular attention. Animals need daily care, gardens are at top output, freezers and pantries need to be planned and re-stocked, and multiple checklists need to meet completion before the fast approaching winter. Good luck finding someone dependable to manage it all in the possibility of your absence.
Considering the rare opportunity for a summer family vacation, things actually almost seemed to fall into place for my family this year. We arranged quality farm-sitters to move in next door and rent out my dad’s basement for the summer! Family summer fun, here we come!!
But then, this spring, a hand grenade was thrown into our calendar in the form of an inconvenient cancer diagnosis. Our road trips became weekly doctor appointments and tests. Showing off the summer beach bod was replaced with a mastectomy surgery. Camping trips were nudged out with chemotherapy. On top of the emotions that came with being told that I had cancer, I felt an immense sense of guilt for disrupting my family’s fun this summer.
“Sorry to disappoint you, kids, vacation plans have changed again this year.”
But, you know what? Each day I observe my kids out and about on the farm and I can only conclude that they are genuinely happy. They have incredible fun making up their own games in the backyard and going on adventures to the swamp. We have long chats about nothing in particular while they pick berries with me. They sing at the top of their lungs while propelling their bikes up and down the driveway. We shell peas together on the deck and they beam with pride over how they’ve contributed to dinner. We’ve attended several local rodeos, had family backyard water-gun fights, and arranged BBQs with good friends. They get to experience daily treasure-hunts for eggs in the chicken coop. They forage for treats for the bunnies…
They don’t even know what they might be missing out on. If I were to ask each of them what their summer highlight has been so far, my 4 year old would answer that it was the free pony ride at our last rodeo. My 6 year old would say it was rediscovering old 80’s Sunday school cassettes in storage and listening to them non-stop on a little pink cassette player. She’s listened to the same Psalty the singing songbook (#iykyk) album on repeat at least 8 times today.
My girls don’t need to experience the line-ups at Disneyland or the sudden blanket of humidity felt stepping off of a tropical flight to mold them into the well rounded, grounded adults we are raising them to be. Kids need humble experiences, uninterrupted by society’s pressures for extravagant vacations. They need quality time with loved ones, discovering new activities to fall in love with, free from distraction. In 5-10 years from now, looking back on this season, they will possess rich memories that they will genuinely cherish.
So next time you feel guilt creep in about not being in a position to accommodate lavish vacations, or budget for the newest and greatest toy or video game, remember that your children are already experiencing something priceless – the joy of a simple, humble living that will stay with them for a lifetime.