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Why do you live where you live? How does that one choice affect the rest of your life?

First World Rural

April 26 · Issue #6 · View online
First World (Rural) Problems - Bringing the 21st century past city limits.

Why do you live where you live? How does that one choice affect the rest of your life?

Not something you do in the city...
In 2007 we lived in northeast Edmonton, in a conventional neighbourhood in a 3 bedroom house with a bonus room over the front-facing garage. We owned a Suburban for family hauling and a little red Acura Integra for commuting. We had four children in elementary school at the same time, so lots of soccer, dance, birthday parties and trips to see their cousins. My wife was working as a Registered Nurse while I was a Business Analyst for EDS, a global consulting company that had several large contracts with the Government of Alberta.
Given that summary, most of you can imagine most of what our days looked like. Many of you may still be living in a similar milieu, but with smartphones and Netflix added. We made a choice to move to an acreage, and suddenly our schedule changed.
Where you live is a significant determinant of what kind of life you live. While some different neighbourhoods in the same city might not lead to differences, others might be hugely influential, based on cultural, economic or simple geographical factors.
Moving out of that city to an acreage, building your own house, solving infrastructure problems that are not an issue in the city - those choices affect your day-to-day life in surprising ways.
The picture is of the last ride of my Dodge ¾ ton pickup, going for one last tank of water before it is permanently retired. (By the way, if you want a Dodge Ram 2500 parts truck, let me know, I’ll sell it to you for $500 obo. It still runs.) The Dodge has been replaced by a Ford F-250.
We truck our water because we didn’t sink a well. We were planning on collecting rainwater from our roof into a big reservoir, but we didn’t budget for the reservoir during the initial build. Instead, we inherited a 600 gallon fibreglass tank from my wife’s family, placed it in our basement, and built a port through the basement wall to allow it to be filled from outside the house. This was a temporary solution, requiring a 45 minute trip to Riviere-Qui-Barre, the nearest bulk water station, to fill a pickup truck tank’s worth of water (about 200 gallons or 900 liters at a time). We have been ‘going for water’ approximately weekly for 10 years now. I use that time to catch up on podcasts.
Our kids had never been on a school bus before moving to the country. After moving out here, they put in hundreds of hours (for our youngest, thousands of hours) riding to and from school. In Edmonton, our kids played community soccer and basketball. Out here, with the longer drive to town, we restricted things to just school sports. After showing up for my oldest son’s first basketball practice, I volunteered to coach the Onoway Grade 7 basketball team. I just finished my 10th season coaching, this year handling the Onoway High School Senior Boys basketball program.
In Edmonton, we lived close to an LRT station intentionally so that I could use public transit to go to work. I worked at the University, then downtown, with a brief interlude at an office building on the east side of the city that I had to drive to. My wife was the usual daily driver; I was the one taking the bus.
When we were looking for land, we drew a circle about 30 minutes commuting time from the hospital where Deb had a new position. The acreage we bought was just inside that circle. It has a creek running through it on the north side (hence my company’s name, North Creek), and it is heavily wooded and hilly. We didn’t want to spend our summers on riding mowers, so we have kept things pretty natural. This summer I am planning to clear a patch of old poplars and create a lawn for the first time on this land - we’ll see how that goes.
My commute has shrunk down to “down the hallway” while Deb’s has been consistent at about 30-40 minutes. She is still the daily driver going to work, while I use a secondary vehicle to go to basketball practice, church meetings, and water runs. So our vehicle purchasing strategy has been to have one roomy vehicle, one vehicle that is cheap on gas, and a truck for chores. As our kids have learned to drive, we have gone through a succession of small cars, and now the kids are starting to buy their own vehicles and we have settled on a Mazda CX-5 as the jack-of-all-trades vehicle that will do the majority of the driving. In the city we would have ended up with something smaller and cheaper on fuel - although the Mazda has really good fuel economy for something its size - but we need all-wheel-drive in order to feel comfortable navigating in winter around here.
Sahara, the always-angry cat.
Monty in his younger days.
We brought Monty home from the SPCA in 2006, and along with our cat Sahara, we were a two-pet family until we moved out to the acreage. We adopted some barn cats to chase the mice around our property since our cat was traumatized by dogs and wouldn’t go outside. Sahara is buried out back, we still have Monty, and we brought home George, a St. Bernard-Pyrenees cross that has taken over the duty of chasing the coyotes away from Monty. Our Mazda has enough room in the back for George to come along on road trips - Monty’s travelling days are probably over. Monty did get to ride in our RV last summer.
Monty with white in his fur, on a road trip in the RV.
The point of all this rambling? Life is a one-way journey, and when you make a choice, you never know how that choice will reverberate through the rest of your life. We moved to the country, and ended up with two big dogs, a weekly trip to get water, a bias to 4 wheel drive vehicles, and a love affair with basketball coaching. JRR Tolkien said it best:
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
I thought I’d be a bioinformatician, or a mathematical biologist, or a corporate IT programmer. Now I’m trying to start up a rural social network, surveying my neighbours to see how good their internet access is, and writing this newsletter. I have a call with a client from Texas in an hour, so I’d better sign off - but I’ll end with some puppy pictures so you get a smile on your face.
Cheers from North Creek, full of surprises!
Talk to you next week,
Baby George
Awkward teenage month
George and Monty
Today: George, our barn cat Dune, the Mazda, and the water hose in the background.
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David Block RR 1 Site 1 Comp 271, Onoway, Alberta, Canada T0E 1V0