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Living off the land becoming popular in Newfoundland and Labrador

The McBrides’ goats Miri (foreground) with mother Spring and sister April.
The McBrides’ goats Miri (foreground) with mother Spring and sister April. - Contributed

Facebook group encourages subsistence lifestyle

When the price of milk in Newfoundland and Labrador increased by 50 cents several years ago, Lisa McBride’s husband, Steve, joked that they should get a cow. After some research, the couple, who were living in St. John’s at the time, decided a cow was not the best option and instead got Goldie, a Boer goat.
“We got into homesteading while we were still living in the city,” Lisa said.

Beehives and raised garden beds in the McBride yard in Mobile.
Beehives and raised garden beds in the McBride yard in Mobile.

The couple not only trained Goldie to walk on a leash and shake a hoof, but they also drink her milk and use it for cheese, yogurt and ice cream.

Not long after, the McBrides got a buck goat, meaning there would be kids, and moved to live full-time at their cabin in Mobile, which has a one-acre plot of land. The goats take care of all their personal dairy needs. In addition to having their goats and a backyard farming plot, the couple also has ducks for eggs, and rabbits and turkeys for meat. They tap trees in Pippy Park for maple syrup and have beehives for making their own honey.

Around three years ago, the McBrides started the Facebook group “Backyard Farming & Homesteading NL.” A “Backyard Vegetable Farmers NL” group already existed, but they felt it wasn’t inclusive to the range of homesteading and farming activities they were doing, and wanted to make a place for people to post about anything do-it-yourself related.

“With us, it’s just about fostering an environment where failure is acceptable,” says Lisa.

The group caters to a wide range of experiences and interests, including animals, produce and building greenhouses.

“We all remember #darkNL and what happened when you couldn’t get food at the grocery store,” says Lisa, referring to the widespread power outages of January 2014.

Young turkeys resting on Steve McBride’s arm.
Young turkeys resting on Steve McBride’s arm.

She says many people joined the group looking for alternatives to grocery shopping.

In the past year, the group has grown from about 6,000 members to more than 11,000, which Lisa believes is related to the rising cost of food, and the coming increase to the cost of power associated with Muskrat Falls.

She added that many members talk about ways to get off the grid and reduce power consumption. McBride and her husband use a hand-cranked washing machine for their clothing, and heat their house solely with wood.

More than anything, the group has been a way for people to connect and learn from each other.

“Food is so much about connections to people,” says Lisa.

Members of the group ask questions and share produce they have left over from their gardens.

Beyond just food-related content, Lisa noted, “If you have a problem, we can kind of come together and say, ‘Hey, do you know what’s wrong?’”

The momentum of the group has been surprising, and Lisa said she is happy to see that more people are coming to share ideas and be part of doing something different.

An episode of CBC’s “Land and Sea” featuring Lisa and Steve McBride’s Mobile homestead will air in September, and the couple is organizing a Homestead-a-palooza at the Colony of Avalon in Ferryland on Sept. 16, with presentations on caring for goats, making your own sea salt, leatherwork and other aspects of homesteading and farming.

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