Part of the on-going project Back To The Land
As I continue to catch up on blog posts from May of 2015 I leave you with a chance encounter from the British Columbia Kootenays. I met Raphael while taking a short pit stop in the town of Slocan which sits directly on the south end of Slocan Lake. If you ever get a chance to visit this part of Canada, I highly recommend driving HWY 6 between Upper Arrow Lake and Slocan Lake as the landscapes will leave you breathless. As I pulled into a gravel parking lot that sits on the towns lake front, I immediately noticed a young boy casually walking a goat in the adjacent tall grass under a large poplar tree. I assumed it was a large dog; it was the horns peaking over the tops of the grass that gave it away. Curious, I parked my truck and tried not to draw too much attention to my staring eyes as it's not everyday you see someone walking their goat with a leash. After about five minutes watching the two from the comfort of my vehicle, the boy than picked up the docile animal and placed it in the vehicle that was waiting than hopping into the passenger seat. My eyes met the woman driver and young boy as we simultaneously gave one another a casual wave followed by a friendly smile as they drove past. A little annoyed with myself for not asking about the goat let alone a chance to photograph each of them, I drank some water, admired the glass covered lake and was on my way.
Upon leaving Slocan I decided to cruise up and down a few of the towns empty streets taking in the surroundings and community. As I approached a four-way stop on one of the side streets, I immediately noticed the weathered pickup with the young boy outside hanging freely upside down on the playground's monkey bars. I drove past and immediately pulled a u-turn as I took this as a second chance to ask about the goat. As I pulled over I introduced myself just like I would in any small town and soon enough the three of us found ourselves in a friendly conversation. It turns out the young boys name is Raphael Lajeunesse and the woman was his mother; Carmelle. The two are from the Slocan area with Raphael being born at home, in a bathtub and on a piece of land up a back road on the adjacent mountain; Carmelle was quite proud of this. The two have been travelling around the Kootenay area the last couple years "Wwoofing". Now I had never heard of this word or term before until then. Wwoof-ing stands for World Wide Opportunity on Organic Farms. In short you volunteer your time on any farm (commercial or residential) in trade for accommodation and food. Not a bad trade especially if you're looking to expand your knowledge when it comes to farming, construction, small production gardening or even horticulture. As I continued to ask questions about their lives and living situation I was starting to get a little resistance from Carmelle as I continued to ask more. I could sense from the start that she was hesitant the moment I started talking to her and I don't blame her, I would be a little stand offish as well if some random stranger started asking me questions about my life. To lighten the mood, I then focused the conversation towards Raphael and what he enjoyed doing in his spare time.
Raphael being 11 years old loves what any boy his age would; riding his bike, hiking, and learning how to make a proper bow and arrow. One thing that did surprise me was his love for spending time in the garden while looking after his goat along with other animals he has back home. The two live on a quarter section of land (160 acres) in the Slocan Valley that was currently being divided among a variety of families looking to buy and develop each parcel. Each party would receive 8-12 acres to develop contributing a percentage of their harvest and skills to the community as a whole. If I'm not mistaken that sounds to me like a commune. I honestly didn't know communes still existed but hey what a cool way to live. Along with living off the land, Carmelle also home schools her son but Raphael was quick to comment his dislikes about certain subjects and that spending time outside was his priority.
When I asked about their plans for the future, Carmelle again was a little reluctant to say exactly "Oh... when Raphael turns 18 we have plans, but it's our little secret". I like to think they will find themselves in a remote mountain valley or in some homestead type cabin on the shores of a small glacier lake hidden away from any sort of human footprint, looking after each other and living off the land. Meeting people like Carmelle and Raphael is always an eye-opener, you may not agree with their lifestyle but I can sure respect it and apply some of their free thinking to my own life. I wish them both a very happy life's journey wherever their goat and a beat up pickup truck may take them.