Back in 1997 we purchased the back 40 from my Mom. My family used it to pasture cattle in the summer- a quarter section of bush with a small lake. My parents bought the land during the days of the TV show Bonanza. My Dad christened the property the Ponderosa, and the name stuck. Every spring and fall we had a cattle drive to and from the Ponderosa. (Not quite as romantic as it sounds or looked like on Bonanza. No horsebacked riders; just 5 kids and 2 adults moving a herd of slow moving cattle down the road trying to keep them out of neighbours’ fields.)

As kids, we used to picnic and camp in the back meadow, sleeping in the back of the station wagon. The lake was not so good for swimming, but perfect for skipping stones, catching frogs, picking bullrushes, tree climbing and dreaming. We combed the bush looking for morels every spring, and picked wild stawberries, raspberries, saskatoon and chokecherry.

When Ken & I decided we wanted the property, we tramped it over the winter and found the perfect building spot, high above the lake in an area already cleared for us by beavers. It took us 3 summers working with a chainsaw and axe to clear a road to the building site. Another summer to build a small 12′ x 18′ one room cabin, a second summer to build a bathhouse/sauna and yet another to build Ken’s dream woodworking shop. And on the seventh summer, we rested and began to enjoy the vacation property.

Cabin in Winter

Cabin in Winter

Bathhouse with lean-to on shich we later installed black hose for hot water heating.

Bathhouse with lean-to on shich we later installed black hose for hot water heating.

For the last 10 or so years we have been weekend residents, learning how to live with our wild neighbors (I refer to the raccoons, skunks, bears, beavers and various other neighbors we share the land with. Our closest human neighbor is about 2 miles away.) and learning how to survive off grid. We started with a small 12 volt system and have increased to a full fledged 110 amp service with enough power to run the woodworking shop – when the sun shines.

shop with failed attempt at wind power

shop with failed attempt at wind power

Last April, Ken retired and moved to the Ponderosa full time. So after years of planning and waiting, its time to start building our retirement home. Me, I am continuing as a weekend resident. Living and working in big city, until the house is ready for occupancy.

Last summer Ken built the garage, which is an addition to the shop, to provide a place to store building material. And more importantly, he spent his first winter at the property, off grid. The winter proved a true test of our research and planning. We learned what worked and what needs to be improved. Although December and January will be challenging, I am more convinced than ever that the dream of living comfortably off grid in Manitoba is possible. (But then I wasn’t freezing my butt off during those long dark winter nights!)

And so The Build is becoming reality. I hope you will follow along on our two or three year journey to completion.

View of lake

View of lake


About Darlene & Ken

Experiencing life off the grid, building a home, and trying to live sustainably.
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