Tasha: That’s it presently, but as Laura said, it’s ongoing. In winter all the grapes are dormant, so that’s when you prune the vines. The grass is exploding now it’s spring, so we’ve got a bit of maintenance to do.
Laura: Talking about winter — Tasha is the wood chopper, she’s chopping up all the wood into kindling so we can build a fire. It’s quite chilly in the winter.
Tasha: But not too chilly! It doesn’t go below minus 10. It usually hovers around zero, but still that’s cold enough. Where we are is in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island, so we actually have a lot less rain than Vancouver itself. We still have quite a bit of rain, because it’s a temperate rainforest here, but also a lot of sun — it’s the Sunshine Coast.
How did you learn how to do all these chores on the farm?
Tasha: I’d had a farm before; I’d had about 20 ewes, and chickens, cows, goats, horses — even donkeys at one time. So I was quite used to it. Laura had to learn the routine, and she’s doing really well and enjoying it more; mucking out and feeding the animals, the routine of waking up and letting the animals out.
Which of these chores do you least look forward to Laura?
Laura: Hmm. The only time I don’t enjoy it is when it’s dark and rainy. In the winter when you’re trying to do the evening chores, and you’re trying to cook dinner for the kids, and it’s wet and you’re cold and you’re walking through the muck.... But it passes, so it’s fine. I’ve developed a good rhythm and I pretty much enjoy it.
Why do you believe it’s so important for kids to experience this kind of life in nature? Do you relate it to the bigger picture of the environmental crisis — that what we do not know we do not love, and what we do not love we do not save?
Laura: You nailed it. The fact that our kids know where meat comes from. That you have to kill a chicken if you want to eat chicken. That they understand...
Tasha: ...Chickens have personalities and they are beings. It’s quite a profound thing to know that a chicken is giving their life for your nutrition. They’re not mindless beings which you take at will — you have to have an energy exchange and that gratitude and appreciation.
Laura: And then the kids start to ask questions — it creates a dialogue which feeds into other things. They know about factory farms and the condition of animals there, and not because we’re trying to drill them with something. They’re actually asking us, “Why don’t you eat meat when we go to this restaurant?’ ‘Why won’t you buy that?” Also, where we live has a large population of First Nations people, so the kids learn about how they’ve sustained themselves. We have books on the stories and myths they have passed down, so the kids are learning and integrating that into their philosophies.
Is there a particular tribe that lives in your area?
Laura: Yes, the Tla’amin, who have an amazing history along the coast with the resources that are there, or have been there. It’s quite interesting to learn about how they have been living off the land and the sea. The Tla’amin are self-governing now, so there’s been a lot more reconciliation and interest in learning from them and honouring the practices that have sustained them. I wasn’t aware of the atrocities that were committed in Canada — as an American, I had no idea. It’s good that the kids have the opportunity to understand, as this happens everywhere. They’re asking us what happened to them, what happened to everybody? You have to be careful with what you say sometimes.
Are there any stories of the Tla’amin which particularly resonate with the kids?
Laura: I took a hike with the kids recently, and we were walking along and one of the women here pointed out a tree — a cedar tree. And Bowie told everyone of how the First Nations would collect the bark from the tree to make hats from and so on. There was another tree which you could see bear scratches on, so Bowie asked, “Do you think the First Nations watched the bear scratch the tree, and that’s how the figured out you can use the bark?’ I thought that was great; the kids are learning how to live in harmony with animals. That’s what you learn from nature — how to use it sustainably.
Tasha, from what I understand, you’ve twice quit modelling to go live on a farm in the countryside?
Tasha: At least twice! I’ve taken many breaks to reestablish my connection with myself and my environment, or my life in general. I’ve felt I’ve always had to work and then take a step back to be able to then work again. To recharge.
As fashion and the modelling industry can be...
Tasha: ...Intense. It can be. I’d bought my farm near Toronto when I was 16, and I first took a break when I was 17, 18 after I’d been working so, so much, and I didn’t have anything to ground myself with. I really needed to take some time to go back there, to be able to appreciate myself and the skills I could do physically and mentally that were not related to what I looked like. So since then, I’ve learnt to take steps back and take the time to recharge, and now I feel I have a really good balance. I’m working quite a lot right now, and it’s so nice I can come back to the farm and make things and have my routine to fall back on. I can feel the rhythm of that.
How about yourself Laura, can you tell us more about your work?
Laura: I was in the music business for almost a decade. The last time we left to move to Canada, I was working in a recording studio as a sting producer — it was a lot, 24 hours a day. With having kids, you really want to get into their rhythm, so we were lucky with being able to take some time off when we moved. But I also really love to work. It has been a bit challenging in our area, but I have found work for a non-profit — a great non-profit organisation in our town that arranges all of the social enterprises in our community. I helped launch a coffee shop in our local library, a social enterprise. I started off by volunteering, just showing up for these community things, which is how you network and meet people. I’m still trying to find a rhythm, but it feels good to be associated with things that are benefiting the community. You can actually see, or feel, the change because it’s a small town.
What are your plans for the year ahead, and in the longer term?
Tasha: We’re trying to develop a sustainable farm, and we’re taking it day-by-day, or month-by-month because we are still at the initial stages. There are a lot of ideas. We may make small batches of wine, turn the farm into a market garden, set up a small-onsite store selling local artisan’s wares and the things we produce here. We’re still trying to figure it out exactly, as a business, as a lifestyle — as a thing we can have fun with and enjoy and not get overwhelmed by. We’re not trying to make a big amount of money with it or anything like that. The idea is to have a nice environment for the kids, and to have some kind of family legacy for the kids that we can develop.