Moved to Saskatchewan, back in 2022...

Ryan Weal
Published 2024-06-18

It has now been a couple years of living out in the country. Back in 2020 I had moved from Montreal to Lachute, Quebec, ending my "big city" life. It was cool living in a small town. My roommate (who also moved from Montreal) had lots of connections from family and school and that was nice to see.

Of course, Quebec was locked down for most of the time I lived in Lachute so meeting new people was very limited. I focused my plans on my tiny-house dreams that had been ongoing for the better part of ten years. I decided Saskatchewan was best... not because I grew up here, but because of all the factors I was considering for homesteading.

Finally I had decided on "Northern" Saskatchewan (even though I had never been there, being from the southern part) and planned a "dry-run" Christmas drive to visit family and put myself at ease for the coming move. Technically I had not made the final decision until the end of that trip though. As I was readying the days of travel back to Lachute the Quebec government announced new (round 2) of curfews. For days I was driving and enraged by the government's decision, which was later proven to be entirely political and not medical in nature at all.

When I was a child I never had curfews. Here I was driving back to what was essentially a virtual prison. On my way out of Saskatchewan my brother in law mentioned that Starlink now was available in Saskatchewan. That was the final piece of the puzzle I needed to hear.

I had to take an extra day driving to Lachute because I would have arrived in Lachute at 11pm, but of course due to the curfew I would be fined if I tried to go home at that time of day. So I got another hotel room in Ontario and added yet another day to my travel itinerary.

When I finally arrived in Lachute I unpacked the car, dropping all of my stuff just inside the doorway. My roommate was not impressed that the pile remained there for months, until I was ready to drive back to Saskatchewan again.

At that point, starting in January of 2022, I reviewed my notes about places to live. I started looking seriously at properties and regretted that I had not taken the opportunity on the Christmas drive to look at some of the places (but to be fair, time was limited). After talking to my family my sister suggested there was an abandoned house on one of my dad's properties. It had not been lived in for 20+ years. Somewhat ironically I had not lived in Saskatchewan for 22 years. Was it meant to be?

It turns out the house had electric and water (from a well). I asked if I could safely keep my cats there while I looked for something else... and decided that was good enough for now. I ordered a Starlink and a U-Haul shipping container. And at the start of May I left Quebec for good.

So I decided, sight unseen, to go live in a falling apart house rather than continue living in the virtual prison state of Quebec.

It was a great decision.

I loaded up the U-Haul box that was parked at my house, got it ready for shipping, and then loaded the car with my essentials and my cats. I decided on 4 days of driving rather than 5-7 days as it would be easier on everybody, and it was.

During the final hour of the drive one of my cats, Lionel, who was the most stressed at the situation suddenly became calm and excited. He knew we were almost there.

There was a light rain that day. I got in pretty late, just before sunset. My parents wanted me to stay somewhere else the first night, but I was committed to making it work so I met them at the house. They brought the Starlink I had shipped to them. The road into the property was very rough and muddy. The stairs to the door were long gone. Sometimes the doors didn't even shut or popped open randomly.

I climbed in using a step ladder. Picked the bedroom that seemed the most "secure" and set myself up in there with a space heater.

Being a technical person I was super excited about the Starlink so I unboxed that after the car was unloaded. The setup was easy, plug it in, pick the WiFi network on your phone, and use the captivate portal to set a new network name and password. Great... but then I could only get one-way (send a request) but nothing came back. I decided to give up. I went outside to bring the Starlink in the house when I noticed it had re-oriented itself and was pointing at a wall. So I moved it 30 feet away, and suddenly I had great Internet, pretty much the same as I had in Lachute (besides the additional $100/month, because I'm 30-45min drive from any town).

At that point I was basically settled in.

I left the front door open 24/7 for at least a week for the Starlink cable and to air things out. Gradually I started to fix things and figure out all the problems with the house. Eventually the cable got a hole drilled in the wall for it and the door stayed mostly closed, with the exception of about 3-5 times when it would suddenly blow open in the middle of the night. Very spooky, but always based on the direction of the wind.

Eventually that door got replaced with a full-length glass door so I can see the cats coming and going. The cats were in heaven: the property has 1.25 square miles to roam, as my dad's cattle live here in the summertime. The cats were pleased that we have TONS of mice, and TONS of gophers.

We later identified that there is a family of weasels that live near the house, many jack rabbits, coyotes (of course), foxes, and owls (which can be very deadly for domestic pets). Before moving in there were reportedly raccoons in the house, although I have not seen any around even 2 years later. The house also had been taken over by birds for a period of time before I arrived, but a cleaning crew took care of that before my arrival.

Now it has been over two years and I am really loving the country life. I started a small "back-yard" chickens operation last year and got a second round of birds this year. The owls have taken out a few of them, but the eggs are delicious, and the owls seem to only strike during a full moon when there is no wind. So it is a workable situation.

This idea was largely inspired by "Tara's Place", which was a fictional restaurant I thought I was going to visit in Santa Cruz, California years ago. When my colleague brought me there I realized, it was actually the home of the Tara who we worked with... and she had a back yard full of chickens! It was a wonderful visit and inspiration that I could have never predicted.

When the first batch of chickens were ready to move into their coop I noted a badger that I had not seen before. It turns out the badger's tracks were everywhere and I should have been paying attention to that. Anyway, my cats were not intimidated by the badgers, and the badgers were happily eating all the gophers, but I decided to get a dog anyway "just in case" to protect the chickens.

The first dog didn't last long... six months? I can't even remember. After that I decided to get a pair of beautiful Labrador-Retrievers. We had a great first year with them going to the dog park in the city, going for long drives, and hanging out at the yard with the chickens (and in the summer, also the cows). Recently one of them passed due to eating some inedible "net-wrap" for bales. Farm life is what it is sometimes.

Throughout this time period I have continued to work on my software projects. Sales are a bit harder to do... as my sales pipeline was primarily based on going to conferences in the US and Europe and partnering up with other developers. Effectively the lockdowns had killed that anyway, so I don't consider living out in the country detrimental in that sense.

One thing I learned about not going to conferences: I never get sick anymore. I used to get sick about once a month! And I used to travel about once a month too. Coincidence?

Unfortunately I don't spend any time on social media at all, and I am not a fan of Discord or Slack for contributing to open-source projects, so I will have to figure out some new strategies for finding future work. I am hoping to continue working with small and mid-size businesses on their data-driven projects. I have learned a little about how "farm networks" are setup as well, so there are some opportunities in the local market that are tangentially software related.

With that in mind I have been creating my own software projects just for fun. Eventually I'll release some of them as I find projects that align with my code. It is nice to have a more relaxed pace of life. The zen of being alone is very conducive to creating new things.

Living in the country is great and my only regret is that I didn't do it a long time ago. People ask me if I feel isolated being by myself out in the country, but how can you feel isolated with two cats, a dog, two-dozen chickens, and being surrounded by wildlife all day long? To be honest, what is truly isolating is living in a city, in a small box apartment, never talking to your neighbours, and being far away from family.

Thanks for Reading!
Ryan Weal (LinkedIn)
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Published by Kafei Interactive