NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Family loving the country life

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 4, 2012

Boyd Warner, who spent 40 years in Yellowknife from the time he was a child, has now found a new life as a modern-day homesteader in the South Slave.

NNSL photo/graphic

Boyd Warner stands in front of the small family church on the land where he lives south of Enterprise. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Warner - along with his wife, Monique, and their three children - reside year-round at what they call Riverside, a 16-acre piece of land along Highway 1 about 60 km south of Enterprise.

"Now we live here and we're the only residents here, besides all our critters," he said.

The family has lived there for close to five years.

"The country life we find really great and the kids excel in it and the outdoors," Warner said.

Only about four acres at Riverside are cleared for eight buildings, including a house, a barn, a cabin, an office and an old icehouse built decades ago by the original settler.

There is even a small church so the family can get together and study the word when they can't get to services in Hay River, about 100 km away.

"We don't have the bell, but we've got a steeple," Warner joked.

The 49-year-old said he finds working on the land and with animals - horses, goats, ducks, rabbits, geese, chickens and pigs - incredibly therapeutic.

"I'm really enjoying the outdoors, working with the animals and doing the chores," he said. "It's something I look forward to every morning."

Plus, he said he loves the relative isolation of Riverside, which is on the shore of the Hay River just 24 km north of the NWT-Alberta border.

His children - aged from seven to 16 - are home-schooled by his wife, but they also get to participate in activities in Hay River, such as a youth group and biathlon.

Warner and his wife originally bought the property with another Yellowknife couple, who lived there for three years while the Warners used it as a holiday place. Once the other couple decided to move on, they became the sole owners.

Warner said he first became interested in the land because it was for sale, not for lease.

"The biggest attraction was titled land and we always wanted to live on the land, but to build on leased land is pretty risky in our opinion because the lease might not get renewed," he explained.

The family's move to the land to live full-time occurred when their tourism business slowed down in the NWT.

Warner is president of Bathurst Inlet Developments, which does outfitting and caribou hunts in Nunavut and owns Bathurst Inlet Lodge.

"I grew up in tourism. We're still in tourism," he said, noting the company was started by his parents and is now operated and majority owned by himself and his wife.

The company has four camps in the NWT, but they are not active because of difficulties getting tags to hunt caribou.

"Once the caribou thing slowed down, we relocated to here," Warner said.

At Riverside, he has an office and does his work for Bathurst Inlet Developments.

"Nobody knows where I'm e-mailing from or answering the phones from," he said.

Warner noted the family can live at Riverside for about one-third of what it used to cost them to live in Yellowknife.

"So literally the same standard of living on a third of the income," he said. "We knew it would be cheaper. We didn't think it would be that cheap."

Despite everything they have done to develop the land, their efforts are invisible to motorists passing by on Highway 1 because of a wall of trees.

The only indication there is anything down a narrow side road is a sign advertising Riverside NWT Animal Boarding.

"We were looking at ways to raise money from here, and being out of town this far there's not a lot of things," Warner said, noting there was an opportunity for a kennel because some people travelling south were boarding their dogs in the Alberta towns of Manning and High Level.

The year-round kennel opened about six months ago, and has been busy on long weekends and for holidays. So far, the business has come from South Slave communities.

Warner said the kennel is the first of some business sidelines to make it more economical for the family to live at Riverside.

"It's not to make it too busy, but at the same time it's nice to have revenue generated and that's where the boarding kennel is predominant," he said.

Right now, rabbits are also for sale, and horse-drawn sled rides may be offered next winter.

"I'm just looking for a sled," Warner said.

No garden produce is yet being sold, he noted. "The goal for us is to try to be totally self-sufficient on food and vegetables, and then get into what works and maybe sell."

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.