It wasn’t long ago that Annie and Graham Coombe were city kids on the west coast of British Columbia. But they got sick of the noise, pollution and traffic, and so the couple decided to do what most city folks only dream of doing: they moved out to the bush to live a healthy new self-sufficient lifestyle. They are now situated in B.C.’s beautiful Cariboo Valley, a 40 minute drive from the grocery store, and 20 minutes from their mailbox, and the most basic necessities. While the Coombes have traded many modern conveniences to live a life off the grid, and on-the-land, thankfully they didn’t do away with the internet. Annie writes about their DIY experiments on their blog, which is nominated in this year’s Canadian Blog Awards in the Personal Blog category.
Country Living in a Cariboo Valley is a blog that peeks into the lives of Graham and Annie Coombe, Da Wolf, (and their half-Malamute, half- wolf dog, Ginger, the barn cat, and 17 laying hens as well as meat birds and pigs), and becomes a platform for sharing the rare knowledge that the Coombes are learning every day “Since we were city kids, we did not know very much when it came to living way out in the country,” says Annie. “Probably the biggest lesson we quickly learned was to keep a list of needed items and only take that list to town once a week. Did something get missed? Too bad, it will have to wait till next week. Once we moved out to the bush I started thinking about everything I needed to learn. That led to my looking around on the internet for other people who ran homesteads or farms, so that I could learn from them. I didn’t find a lot of resources on the internet, and so started our own blog. I thought that we just could not be the only people who moved from the City to the Country who didn’t know what the heck they were doing.”
Graham is a millwright and a welder and is quite knowledgeable about machinery and logging, which, as Annie says, “mean[s] he is very handy to have around. We’re fortunate in that he only needs to work part-time, mostly because of the lifestyle we have.” Annie is a gardener, animal farmer, stock trader and writer for various websites. They are “just over 50 and just under 50,” says Annie. “[It] should be noted that those are physical ages; in our minds we’re still teenagers.”
Annie started blogging in 2008 and her informative posts have attracted an interested audience spanning from Australia to Asia to Europe, then back to the U.S. and Canada, where most of her readers are located. Many readers have started their own mini-homesteads (some even in the city), beginning their journey of providing for their families by the same means that Graham and Annie use. “I write about things that city people would never need to know, such as the importance of having enough wood cut and stacked in the wood room (and how to build the wood room). Going to spend the winter in the country wilds of Canada? You better learn how much dry firewood you will need!” Annie quips.
Annie is inpsired by the following Alton Brown quotation, and encourages anyone who identifies with it to check out her blog: “We are fat and sick and dying because we have handed over a basic, fundamental and intimate function of life over to corporations. We choose to value our nourishment so little that we entrust it to strangers. This is insanity. Feed yourselves. Feed your loved ones. And for God’s sake feed your children.”
Since Graham and Annie grow/raise roughly 85 per cent of the food they eat, Annie writes a lot about gardening and raising animals in posts like this one entitled How to get started on the path to providing for your family.
“Over the years we have become advocates about growing your own food and the health benefits of doing so,” says Annie. “We call our food Naturally Grown and use zero chemicals in our gardens. I also write about freezing, canning and dehydrating the food that we grow. A lot of people today don’t know how to can foods or may be afraid to try. It’s not hard and as long as you follow the rules, it is completely safe and stays good literally for years.” Graham and Annie’s passion for natural growing, eating and living is evidenced further in posts like How I shop for groceries (hint: she doesn’t go to town) and How to make rhubarb wine just one of the many wine how-tos (Parsley, Saskatoon/Raspberry and dandelion wines, among others, are featured on the site.)
The Coombes believe there is nothing more forward thinking than becoming self-sufficient, particularly in this economic climate.
“Growing some of your own fruit, vegetables, herbs, etc. can go a long way to decreasing the food bill at the local grocery store,” says Annie. “That is a great incentive for any family! Many cities and towns are now allowing their citizens to have chickens in their backyard. This movement is one we wholly support. The advantage [is that] raising children with this kind of knowledge is very good for them.”
The natural beauty of the Cariboo valley is one of the main attractions for the blog’s readers, many of whom are, ironically, city dwellers. But Annie encourages everyone to garden in her instructional posts. “You don’t have to live in the country,” she emphasizes. “Many of the items covered on our website can be done in any suburban backyard.”