This is the first in a series of posts about Hornby throughout the seasons.
Summer is first because -- well -- we are certainly in the thick of it now.
And so we have now experienced 3 full cycles of the seasons, and are getting a sense of the island’s annual rhythm – its biorhythm so to speak. Each season has its flavour, making any time of year a good time to visit Hornby Island.
But, let's talk about summer ...
Leading up to the end of the school year things slowly get busier. Stores are open more frequently, Pizza Galore is open on weekends, and the Farmers' Market is open on Saturdays. The island has a comfortable sense of blossoming like a garden – a gentle renewal. The weather is warmer and the sunbathers hit the beach.
Apart from the giant bloom of visitors, a number of things mark the beginning of summer:
As I write this, summer is in full swing. We have just come through the busiest point – the August long weekend. The Hornby Festival is almost over – such a wonderful event. By now, most of the locals have a ‘deer in the headlights’ look about them – unsure of what just hit them, and wondering where all these people came from.
But, we are on the back stretch now. It will all come to an abrupt close when that light switch is turned off again on Labour Day. The island will descend on the Thatch Pub to wave good bye to the folks on the 6pm ferry headed for Denman Island – a tradition I’ll write more about in my next post.
So for now – enjoy the last few weeks of summer. It’s been a sweet and sunny one. Maybe you could do a bit of a rain dance for us.
Since our little homestead will boast a small-scale farm operation as well as a bed & breakfast, it needed a name.
I grew up in a house with a name. I really liked it. Somehow a name turns bricks and mortar into the lead character in a story. It gave depth to my experience in that house.
So, I began my search in earnest.
I must have vetted hundreds of names – Mr. Google helped. Most of them made reference to weather, water, plants, or wildlife. You know -- plant a wisteria vine and now you have “Wisteria Cottage” -- Ouch! I vowed that none of those references would creep into our name.
Since we are building our dream, learning about ourselves, and reinventing our way of life, the name had to be right. It had to be fun, easy to remember, but most importantly have special meaning for us.
My childhood home was called “Stonehaven”. At first glance, perhaps not that imaginative – the quaint use of the name of an historic Scottish town. However, dig a little deeper and it really was quite clever.
Taking a cue from Stonehaven, I deepened my search.
Gary and I have strong interests that bind us together – music, dancing, canoeing, just to name a few.
Gary and I have spent many hours “pulling together” in great canoes and those of lesser size too. I recently discovered that we are featured on the Clipper Canoe website. That’s me in the bow and Mr. Canoehead in the stern. You’ll always find a smile plastered on Gary’s face when he’s paddling.
So, I started running canoe terminology through my head.
All of a sudden it came to me – “Tumblehome” -- an old English nautical term describing the inward curve of a ship’s side above the waterline. For the canoeist this means an easier paddling position, but more chance of catching a wave in your lap – comfortable, but you might get a bit wet.
We bought some land, had it cleared, and are building a house. Nothing new or noteworthy. But, on the scale of our lives, pretty momentous.
We have big plans for our little acreage. We will be creating and running a small-scale farm and a bed & breakfast operation. Here we hope to learn about the land -- how to take care of it; grow our own food; and build a healthy habitat for plants, creatures, and organisms of all manner, shape and form. Most importantly, we hope to learn about ourselves -- who we are, what’s important to us, how to best live our lives authentically and joyfully, and how to nurture our relationship with each other and the land with care and respect.
In the coming months, this blog will follow our adventures on the farm and with the bed & breakfast. I expect it to be an eclectic mix of stories from the farm, how-to’s and reflections on life.
But first off – an introduction.
We are just a couple of baby-boomers who have perhaps gone a bit mad. Not really a rare species these days. This is at least the 3rd career incarnation for each of us – again nothing unusual. But, hopefully we’ve found one where we can finally embody our authentic selves.
We both grew up by the ocean, but at opposite ends of the country. Gary spent his early years in the Maritimes, while I was here on the west coast. Gary worked all over the world in the oil patch as a rig-hand, then well tester, while I started my career as a paralegal in Vancouver.
We met in 1994 after Gary had moved out west to study geographical information systems at BCIT as part of his 2nd career iteration – mapping. We married in 1997 (more about that in my next post) and continued in our corporate pursuits. Gary obtained his Executive MBA from SFU and went on to operate an international mapping company. I shifted into human resources management and earned my MA in Professional Communications from RRU (little did we know how much that MA would change our lives -- but that’s a whole other blog post).
All the while, we were driven, stressed out, and dissatisfied with our corporate lifestyle. As a human resources manager, I saw time and again how organizations control peoples' lives, destroy their spirit, and, more often than not, their health. Both Gary and I had, had enough.
Separately, we each had long dreamed of living on one of British Columbia’s many beautiful Gulf Islands. So, in 2012, on somewhat of an impulse, we chose to chase the dream. In February of that year, we rented out our little house in North Vancouver, packed everything we owned in a truck, and drove to Hornby Island.
Hornby Island sits in the middle of the Salish Sea between Denman and Texada Islands, off the east coast of Vancouver Island, about an hour’s drive north of Nanaimo. It’s a pretty idyllic little piece of paradise. The year round population is about 900, but that at least triples in the summer months. In future posts I’ll let you in on why that is.
After a couple of years on Hornby, getting to know the community and the island, we decided to stay. In our time here our awareness heightened over the poor quality and fragility of the global food chain. We knew that we wanted to be more self-sufficient, grow our own food, and understand what it meant to do that. So we sold our house and bought 5 acres of land on what was at one time part of the old Ostby Farm. I’m told that back then you could see across the fields to the ocean (almost a kilometer away). It’s a beautiful spot. Close to everything, yet removed from any hubbub (if such a thing exists on Hornby).
We are centrally located, close to stores and seasonal restaurants, three beaches and a myriad of trails for walking, biking or horseback riding.
So here we are – about to move onto our little homestead, open our B&B, and start a new way of life. Many folks think we are nuts and warn us of the amount of work it takes to run a farm. That may be the case, but I think (perhaps in my naiveté) that the weight of the work is relational to the lightness of the heart and spirit. I guess we’ll find out.
Be careful what you wish for …