Living Free

Living free, a dream family experience

After getting rid of my television many years ago, life has gotten a whole lot simpler and much more real. I’ve not bought a newspaper since 1995. I get my news off the Internet, free radio and non-mainstream sources. By this I mean sources that do not take canned content from large advertisers, governments, religions, corporations, or anyone else with a specific agenda, but rather, from sources that at least provide both sides to a story. Sources that are dedicated to “telling the story” instead of “following the line”. And, of course, from reporters and journalists who know how to “do the research” and “build a story” instead of following a script.

Living Free. Northwest Vancouver Island
Northwest Vancouver Island

I’m not a good public speaker. I’ve never been trained on how to debate in public. Debating is an art. It’s taught in universities. If you don’t know how to debate, you are very stupid to ever get into one. No, I’m just a picture person. Show me a picture and I can usually figure out the story behind it. I am very good at looking at both forests and trees.

Living free of all the “conditioning” spewed out daily by mainstream media, education mills and organized religion has allowed me to see the world in a different way than most. It’s only when we step outside the box that we become aware of the lies we have been taught. For me the world will never be the same again.

We have allowed ourselves to be herded like sheep into cities where we are more easily controlled, where we are dependent on others for everything we need to stay alive. We are subject to the supply chain system of “just in time” control. To me, that does not seem like a very safe or satisfying way to live.

In search of a simpler life


Give me the rain at night, a few sunny days, a small plot of good land, some seeds for simple veggies and fruits, a small lake or stream to fish and swim in, a countryside that I can forage, and I will live in comfort close to the earth and to nature.

Give me a few simple tools and I will build a home that is self-heating and self-cooling.

Give me a good wood stove, like grandma used when I was a little boy living free on the farm, and I will convert it into a modified rocked stove that uses a fraction of the wood and be warm and safe.

Give me a few good books, lots of writing paper, pencils, canvas, brushes and paints, neighbours who think as I do, the family and friends I now have, a means of protection and I will ask for nothing more.

What can we do about this? Well, in actual fact, there is quite a lot we can do. I’m not saying that living in the city is wrong in itself. I am saying that delegating to others everything we need to live and enjoy life certainly is. Allowing others control over food, energy and shelter is a fool’s choice and a sure way to total slavery, as is accepting their version of values and history. If you are happy living the life of a slave then go for it. But remember, the world you leave when you die is the world your children will live in. Are you sure your children will appreciate the life of a slave?

We must become more self-sufficient in every way. While this is possible living in the city, it is much easier in the country. In the city the temptations and distractions are too many. It’s a lot easier to stop off at the grocery store on the way home than it is to plant a garden and look after it. But there will soon come a time when those shelves will be bare or the foods on them so expensive that most of us will not be able to afford them. When that time comes we will have to provide for ourselves and our families. We will need skills that most city folks don’t have time or the opportunity to learn.

Having said that this is indeed possible in the city. I know people who have turned their whole back yard into a garden. I know people who have filled their flower gardens and decks with pots of vegetables and herbs. I also now people who grow pots of hanging tomato plants and fruits in their apartments. And they all live in the city.

For me though, living free in the country is where it’s at. And it is so much safer. Home invasions are almost non-existent. Everyone seems to smile more. In the country you can build a life that is sustaining and healthy because you have time to.

Following is a short story about how our family did just that in 1973.

A perfect home for a family

In July of 1973 Brad, Kent, Carol, their mom and I sold our home in Calgary and moved to the Shuswap Lake area of south-central British Columbia. We lived on the shores of Adams Lake for 15 years from 1973 to 1988. We purchased a half acre lot that had a roughly framed house already built. My dad drove the moving van and the rest of us climbed into our Dodge station wagon and headed out of Calgary on an adventure of a lifetime.

Living Free. Two apple trees in our front yard
Apple trees in our lakeside yard at Adams Lake. There were two of them and they had gone wild. The apples were were big and delicious. Right after the first frost we usually invited our neighbours over to pick some. We froze, juiced and made pies for a whole weekend.

Once we arrived at our lot we vacuumed out all the dead files and moved right in, spreading our sleeping bags on the floor and setting up a camp stove for a makeshift kitchen. With all of us pitching in, we soon had a half bath, kitchen, sleeping areas and living room set up and functional (sorta). Then we had the basement floor poured and, after it had cured, installed a central propane furnace heating system and a full bathroom by late October. Before the frost set in we put in a potable water system to pump our water directly out of the lake and hooked up a septic system. We were all set for the winter.

My dad, who was a lineman during the war, and worked for Alberta Government Telephones at the time, helped us move and stayed for a few months to help wire the house.

Then came one of the saddest times of my life. Dad had been scheduled for open heart surgery in Calgary, so returned in November for that. It was a critical operation and dad didn’t make it. He was so enjoying helping us and he and Sharon got along so well. He was looking forward to coming back after he recuperated and dig in to help us. He loved fishing and working with us. I’m sure he was still with us throughout the fifteen years we lived there. I’m sure he’s still with us now.

The following spring we began cleaning up the yard. It was a mess of weeds of every type but it had apple trees, three of them, and the apples were big and delicious. We soon had a garden in and a root cellar set up.

We built a studio right down on the lake above a dock we made from logs we scrounged from the lake. It was a studio that any artist would be proud of. I often think that this location would have been absolutely perfect if we had had the Internet and Giclée technology. I could have not only corresponded with my patrons and dealers via email but could have also had a Web site like this one. Out in the middle of the bush and connected to the world. Wow.

Sockeye salmon spawned in the rivers and swam past our dock every fall. We caught Lake Trout, Dolly Varden and Kokanee right off the end of our dock. Black Bear, Deer, Coyote, Bobcat, Lynx, Marten, Mink, Great Horned Owl, Ruffed Grouse, Eagle and Osprey, to name a few, passed through our yard. Loons could be heard throughout the evening and early morning. One year we had a Black Bear cub spend the entire winter under my studio. I used to hear him moving over under the Ashley wood heater during a particularly long cold spell. He was good company.

Self-sufficiency and living free in style

We were as self sufficient as we could possibly be. We had a few hundred miles of virgin country outside our back door stretching north to Wells Gray Provincial Park and beyond. We heated with wood in a fireplace we built from rocks we gathered from around the lake and brought back by boat. We designed and built a hydraulic log splitter from an old airplane landing gear and split logs up to 10″ diameter 4 ways.

We eventually built a wood-fired boiler outside the house in a separate 10′ x 12′ shed and stored hot water in an insulated 500 gallon propane tank. To heat the house we piped hot water in and through an old radiator we installed in the cold air intake of the propane backup furnace, all controlled by a second thermostat set 4 degrees above the propane thermostat. When we were away for a few days the propane furnace kicked in and kept the house from freezing. Burning garbage and scrap wood heated our home each spring and fall until the really cold weather came, at which time we burned logs we bucked ourselves. Occasionally, when we could afford to, we bought a load of birch from one of the logging trucks working in the area.

We converted our 3/4 ton truck (GMC 350 small block V8 engine) to dual gasoline/propane and filled it from our 500 gallon residential propane tank. No road tax for us. Running on propane was the best decision we could have made. It started in all weather and, once adjusted to a different fuel, gave us as good mileage as gasoline with none of the problems. We added a welder, an air compressor, and a 120v DC power supply with an AC converter alongside the engine where there was also enough room for a second battery.

Living free and becoming a family

Living Free. Loon and two Babies
Canada Loon, we heard these birds all the time

We did all of the above as a family. We moved to the lake in late August of 1973 and a few days later Brad, Kent and Carol hopped on the school bus that stopped right behind our house. After school, the bus dropped them off and they did their homework. Then they would pitch in and help with whatever their mom and I were doing. This was a family adventure and it was absolutely the best move we ever made. From the busy city of Calgary we had moved to a quiet place beside a lake where we actually became a family for the first time.

There was always work to be done but we often hopped in the boat and went fishing after school. Many times both Brad and Kent water skied up to the head of the lake and back, a long round trip of about 85 miles. We often camped on small islands at the head of the lake. We explored the whole lake shore together in a small 14′ boat until we could afford to buy a nice 19′ I/O with a canvas top. Rocky bluffs from around the lake supplied the stones for our stone fireplace. We swam in a private area we built by attaching a long log, that we scavenged off the lake, between the end of our dock and a neighbour’s dock 80 or so feet away.

Living at Adams Lake was the best fifteen years of my life and the best place to raise a family. I have been blessed with the best wife, best mother and best friend all in one. Then came the second tragedy in my life. Sharon passed away several years ago and for the first time in my life I felt alone. I mean really alone. I can’t explain but she was always there for us, rock steady and sweet. Then one day she was gone.

But life goes on and I am now blessed with the best children a guy could hope to have, and they are my best friends. Mom and dad have gone on to another existence somewhere but my sister, Anne, is still with us. We’re a very close family and give each other a lot of support without getting in each other’s way.

I could go on and on. So many memories. So many great neighbours and friends. Adams Lake was a special place. But things change and time stands still for no-one…

John Crittenden