I started this blog to record all aspects of my life, including my ferocious love for this little slice of Canada that seems so distant, in the best of ways, from the rest of the country. To the many of you who have told me to stop whining about the internet situation here and move, I feel so sorry for you. I feel sorry that you have never lived somewhere that you love as much as I love my Haven and I feel sorry that you have been brainwashed by this country’s government to believe that status quo is best and that nothing can or should change. I need to record this fight against the ultimate Goliath as I use links to posts in my missives to various companies, politicians, lawyers, and media outlets. I invite you to use your back button if you don’t want to read these posts.
For those of you who want to keep reading, this is my fourth summer at Haven, so it’s time to do a recap of why there is nowhere else in Canada for me to be.
In no particular order here are the things I love about my Haven.
It’s right on the US border. There is nowhere else left along the Canada/US border but southern Saskatchewan where properties are still affordable. I lived near the US border nearly my whole life and that was important to me when began to look for a place to buy. I save a ton on shipping fees by having things sent to my parcel service in Montana and the proximity to inexpensive US fuel is a perk when heading south.
Haven is also right smack in the middle of the continent. All roads converge here, really. I’m never more than half a continent away from anything. I can get to BC and to Montreal in about the same amount of time. When I go Mexico, I don’t have to travel very far in Canada and I save a ton on fuel. Roads to Haven are really good and I’m close enough to the more traveled highways, like the TransCanada, that it’s not a huge detour for friends traveling between the eastern and western parts of the country to visit.
Most of the people in my community are likeminded non-conformists. They are self-sufficient people with a lot of common sense who don’t think I’m peculiar for living in my RV or wanting to travel. Conformists would ask me why I do these things. Non-conformists just ask how they can make my unusual lifestyle easier. We’re having trouble with our RM (rural municipality) management trying to bring in stupid rules like building permits (when we don’t even have building codes) or that we can’t have RVs on our lots or that we have to mow our lawns to certain standards. My neighbours’ and my response to that was laughter and resistance. If we wanted that kind of nonsense, we would have bought “in town.”
These are salt of the Earth people who measure their wealth as I do, by the joy they get out of their lives, not by the things they buy. There is no “keeping up with the Joneses” here. Nowhere else in all my travels have I landed somewhere with such a motley group of folks, not all of whom I like or like me, who so fiercely make me believe that I have found my people. I can be myself here without censorship and when people make fun of me, there is such affection in their tone that I cannot do anything but feel protected and nurtured, something I haven’t felt very often in my life.
Internet notwithstanding, Haven is a really great place to stop and work. There are so few distractions here. It is super quiet and town is just far enough away to not be an option most days, but close enough if I need a change of scenery. This is by far my favourite place I’ve parked the RV and worked. I have an amazing view of both the sunset and the sunrise. I enjoy watching birds and bunnies and gophers all day. Other than the odd lawn mowing during the day, I can count on quiet to do my transcription work. I wake up to the song of the mourning dove, fall asleep to the soothing howl of the coyote, and in between, the mooing of cows is a joyful melody.
Haven has a post office. As long as I can get folks to ship through Canada Post or USPS to a PO box, I can get almost anything delivered here and I can ship things out.
The two nearby communities, Willow Bunch and Assiniboia, provide the essentials. Willow Bunch is less than 15 minutes away and has a bigger post office, a small food store, a great thrift shop, a good pub, and an awesome museum, to which I have a lifetime membership. Assiniboia is 35 minutes away and has a bigger food store, a CIBC (my main bank), an art gallery, a liquor store, and many other services, including a small cinema. Movies are a little slow to come here, but main ones do and a viewing is inexpensive. I don’t go to our cinema often, but I also never feel a need to figure out how to schedule myself around showings in Moose Jaw.
Which brings me to the fact that bigger stores, while 150KM away, are easily accessible from Haven. It’s a boring (but scenic) drive to Moose Jaw, but an easy one. There’s no such thing as traffic out here. I hate driving in cities like Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, and their suburbs. Here, driving is a pleasure over long flat stretches of mostly good roads.
Haven is in a proper community with streetlights and all services but internet and cable television. I could have had a lot of the things I like about Haven itself, maybe even the price of the property, on an acreage in another province, but there are advantages to living in a proper community. I have neighbours to watch over my place when I’m gone, I have fire service, and it’s not insanely expensive to get hooked up to utilities since everything is to my property line. This is the only proper community that I found that would let me use my lot as an RV pad with no promise of building a house within a certain amount of time, and then add in the piddly amount I paid for my lot.
Keeping Haven even if I’m not here a lot isn’t a huge financial burden. The property is paid for and I have $450 a year in property taxes as well as a token amount for water and garbage pickup. Even if I had been able to find another community that would let me have an RV as a residence, I would have had to take out a mortgage to buy it and pay much higher property taxes and service fees.
The climate here is the best in Canada by my standards, mostly dry and sunny, with very little humidity and bugs. A winter here at 50 below with sun beat a winter in BC at 5 above with intense humidity and no sun for six months. Our little valley is in a microclimate of its own and our weather is always better than Assiniboia, Moose Jaw, and Regina. While we do get horrible wind and hail storms, our valley protects us from tornados.
This part of Saskatchewan is incredibly scenic. I know that rolling olive green hills and bright blue skies are not to everyone’s taste, but they are to mine. I walk daily to the post office and I alway pause both ways to fill my soul with the beauty of our hills. I cannot take the views here for granted because I never had such a profound sense of “coming home” as I did the first time I arrived on the Prairies.
This is what I wrote about this area my first time through here, nearly eight years ago, when I hadn’t even yet seen the BC coast, Vancouver Island, or Yukon. I already knew where I was going to land one day and I got shivers rereading this:
Being out here on the prairie fills me with such peace. There is something about the plains that has always made sense to me. When I first encountered them in North Dakota back in 2005 I found myself wondering if it’s possible to come home to a place you’ve never been before. Everything out here is amplified: the blue of the sky, the warmth of the sun, the sound of the wind… Mornings and evenings are bitterly cold in the fall, but the days are hot. Yesterday in Moose Jaw, I could have have closed my eyes and sworn I was in Las Vegas in June, it was that dryly hot out.
Regina is a nice little city, comparable to Winnipeg. It confirmed to me what it is exactly that makes Winnipeg so special to me as Regina has all the same criteria but one, no strong French community.
The ideal year, it would seem, would be a summer spent in the Prairies, an early fall spent on the Shield, and then a winter somewhere warm and dry.
Which reminds of one final thing about Haven that makes it so remarkable: I have a French community here. While we French-Canadians (them fransaskois, me québécoise) tend to do business in English, if there’s something weighing on us or we’re tired or we’re frustrated or we’re angry, we know we can offload in our mother tongue.
Haven does have four disadvantages. Two would not be an issue if I was here pretty much year round. One is only an inconvenience. And one would be a deal breaker if everything else about Haven wasn’t just about perfect.
The first disadvantage is that the food store in Assiniboia is absolutely terrible. If I was here year round, I would do like my neighbours and grow a garden. I’d have Charles fill a freezer with deer meat. I’d befriend the neighbour who sells organic chickens. I’d do quarterly supply runs to Moose Jaw or maybe Regina, which has a Costco. And I’d stock up in Assiniboia when there are good sales.
The second disadvantage is that while I can get mail addressed to a PO box, I can’t get anything else. A lot of businesses won’t ship to a PO box and insist on using a courier service, with no courier companies currently servicing my hamlet. Purolator is examining the possibility of changing its Assiniboia to Willow Bunch route to go through the hamlet as that would actually be a cost savings for them. But for right now, when I absolutely cannot avoid dealing with a supplier who won’t ship to a PO box, I have things shipped to a neighbour’s place of work in Assiniboia. If I was here year round, I’d make a deal with a business in Willow Bunch.
The third disadvantage is that I’m 2.5 hours away from the airport and there’s really no way for me to get there and back under my own steam. I’m always going to have to find someone to at the very least drive me to Assiniboia to grab a bus or to pick me up in Assiniboia. That’s not a huge deal when I have friends who work in town every day. And for my upcoming trip, C&C offered to drive me right to Regina! So the airport isn’t convenient, but it’s not a huge pain to get to.
The fourth disadvantage is, of course, the lack of internet access. When I add everything up, it makes more sense to me to fight for internet access than to start all over somewhere else where I will be unhappy and have even more to complain about. I know I will get this figured out. It won’t happen overnight, not when we have been totally forgotten in all technology development plans in this province, but I’ll find the key to getting it done.
My Haven is a truly special place. As I have said many times, it is a well of infinite energy from which I can draw when I feel drained. It is the only place on this planet that is mine. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t put down solid roots very often. I tend to be happy somewhere for a few months, maybe even a few years, and then I’m ready to move on to that greener pasture around the bend. Well, I’ve traveled enough of this country to know that there is no greener pasture around the bend. This is it for me in Canada. So if I can’t work here, of course I’ll go somewhere else, but it won’t be in this country. And yet, no matter where I go, however many sunsets I enjoy in foreign lands, I will always know that I can come back here to rest and be renewed.