We sold our house in the city and moved to our country home in order to learn how to live without fossil fuels, partly because it’s fascinating and partly because of something someone said to Nora once: “If you cannot feed, clothe and shelter yourself, you’re no better than a baby.” We don’t want to be as helpless as babies if and when the infrastructure of a fossil-fuel based society suddenly seizes.

We don’t live without fossil fuels (yet) but we have learned how very different our lives would (will) be without them. Lesson number one: nobody can move straight from life in the city to life as we try to live it. We’ve been at it for a few years now and we’re not weaned off oil yet. It’s a whole new skill set, and a whole new set of tools. Some of the tools have opinions.

But we’re having a great time. A lot of our friends think we have rocks in our heads, but it’s more fun than we imagined. And we are learning a lot. So this is primarily a site where we get to share our discoveries, the results of our experiments and the joys of a resilient life. Call it sustainable, call it an attempt at permaculture. For us, it is a long-term proposition to answer to the question, If not consumerism, if not fossil fuels, if not pre-packaged or fast foods, then…?

Nora Abercrombie
I have been crazy about animals — all animals — as long as I can remember. My parents indulged my habit of bringing home every manner of critter, including snakes, frogs and bugs. Our kids have accused Gordon and me of hoarding animals but if that’s true, then I was born a hoarder. Living in the country gives free rein to my habit of observing, caring for and trying to communicate with a variety of animals. It also gives me an opportunity to practice alternative or heritage ways of raising them, which has always been an interest for me.

Like Gordon, I grew up in Edmonton (same part of town, sort of). Unlike Gordon, I had parents who got us into the bush, and so I have learned quite a bit about living off the grid. My favourite vacation is to canoe the Athabasca water system for a few weeks or months at a time. This was possible before children, and will be more possible again, but I have managed a few fairly long trips with my son in between. There is nothing like being short of something in the bush to teach you the importance of stuff. I don’t ever want to be short of something important again, and that is one of the reasons we are conducting this experiment.

And, of course, it’s an awesome way to live. Every new baby and every new sprout is exciting. The place smells fantastic, especially in the morning. We feel every mistake, every injury, every death, very keenly. Plus, we have a fricken giant pool. Life is good.

Gordon McRae
I grew up in Edmonton, but spent childhood holidays on a farm. Fond memories of the experiences I had there led me to make the first house I bought a rural one – 7½ acres of old farmstead. In my 10 years there I sure learned a lot. In addition to the care of animals (dogs, cows, horses, rabbits, goats), I gained a great deal of experience gardening and foraging. While Nora’s interests and skills lean more toward animals, my forte is food production – from growing veggies to processing fresh milk into cheese and butter.

Now, Nora and I live on 12 acres, which we named The Grange, where we play with our horses and train our cows. Our menagerie also includes too many dogs and cats and several varieties of heritage-breed chickens and turkeys. I am a writer of children’s and young adult books (see www.gcmcrae.com). I tour schools reading to kids and enjoy myself far more than I probably have a right to.