Living Here is a place to share local stories about people in rural communities and small towns who are helping to build healthy, safe, strong and sustainable communities.
Living Here is about our shared values and finding the common ground to move us forward. We care about the people and places that make small towns and rural living such a treasure. Like friends around the campfire or a family at a holiday meal, we share stories that let us learn about each other’s lives and help us help each other to enjoy and take care of our home
“Our dream was to find one piece of land and we would all live on it together.”- Keiko Armstrong
Extended Families Growing Together
Lukas Armstrong is an architect, and his wife, Keiko is a graphic designer. In 2012, long before the Covid-19 pandemic, when many Canadian families began to re-evaluate their urban lifestyle, the Armstrongs were already planning to move to a rural area. They travelled around the province looking for a piece of land that was just right.
Lukas and his brother Max grew up on a rural farm outside of Dawson Creek. They spent their childhood surrounded by nature, with horses, chickens and goats. Lukas and Keiko wanted to raise their child in an equally idyllic setting. When they found an acre and a half of property on Bedford Road in Blewett, they happily made a move to the West Kootenays.
If anyone knows the value of a drop of water in the Okanagan region of British Columbia, it’s Corinne Jackon, communications director at the Okanagan Basin Water Board. Corinne says the Board has been getting many calls about drought and soaring temperatures recently.
“There is less water in the Okanagan available per person than anywhere else in Canada. The Okanagan has one of the highest rates of water use per person in Canada. Not something to be proud of. We know that the number one use is agriculture. The second largest is household lawns and gardens,” says Corinne.
Corinne says it is critical to make a difference in our water use for a couple of reasons.
“One, our population growth: we’re one of the fastest-growing regions in Canada. Two, climate change and what that means for water availability. We need to do things differently. We’re not on a sustainable path right now.”
Today marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. It’s a pretty momentous occasion.
Today we’re taking time to give space to Indigenous voices. We’re stepping back to listen and learn, and we invite you to do the same. We’ve compiled a list of stories, videos, courses and articles that help explain truth and reconciliation, share Indigenous perspectives, and suggest ways to learn, reflect and commemorate this day.
It’s a new national day of recognition that some provinces have also made a statutory holiday. Some of you will be working today, some of you will have the day off. All of us can read, watch, listen, learn and share on this day and any day going forward.
Top photo: Members of the Canadian Armed Forces teamed up with BC firefighters this summer to fight fires such as the White Rock Lake Fire. (Photo courtesy of the BC Wildfire Service.)
For most of Matthew Heneghan’s life, he has been the one who shows up during a crisis.
During his adolescent years, he stood by his single mother as she battled one cancer diagnosis after another. Right out of high school, Matthew joined the Canadian Armed Forces and served for six years. More recently he worked as a paramedic in Edmonton and Toronto responding to 911 calls.
But when an approaching wildfire forced Matthew to evacuate his home this summer, the tables were turned.
You can take the girl from the ranch but not the ranch out of the girl, says Linda of Courtney on grad day. All photos courtesy of Scott & Linda Heuston.
A Commitment for Life
Scott Heuston’s family has farmed in Balfour, British Columbia, since his grandfather bought the property in 1925. Scott is now in his seventies and still farming.
“I’ve been doing it for close to 60 years now. I’m running out of gas, but I still enjoy the cattle and enjoy doing things. It’s a matter of someone else doing the heavy work, and there isn’t anyone around to make that commitment.”
Scott always knew he wanted to be a farmer.
“When I was 8, 9 years old, my only goal in life was to farm. To raise cattle, grow grain, grow crops, grow anything.”
We’ve all had a lot to deal with this summer. Heat domes, fires, smoke, Covid – there’s been no shortage of bad news stories. Yet we’ve also found good stories to share. We asked our reporters at Living Here and staff at EcoSociety to share pictures that showed how they coped this summer. What they did to try to do the normal things we do in summer when we’re not worried about the air we breathe or whether a fire is going to send us fleeing from our community. Here’s what they shared.
Reporter Sarah Lord writes: We are making the best of a smoky situation. Floating on Slocan Lake with friends, while my dog, Little, tries to find someone to throw her ball.
A friend took this photo during the very first smoky days of summer, and at that point, none of us could have imagined how bad the wildfire situation would get. That day, we were carefree. Since then, we have spent a lot of time stuck inside, not on the lake, avoiding the smoke and extreme heat. And also feeling sad about the fires. I’m happy we got out when we did during the first part of summer.
My friends and I are going out this weekend to float again, this time on the Slocan River. Smoke or clear sky; we still need to have moments of joy and connection.
As the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon swept toward him last week, Pete Caligiuri of The Nature Conservancy hustled to lay out water pipes and start the sprinklers to wet down the area surrounding a remote research station. The approaching wildfire had raged so fiercely that it had begun generating its own weather. Clouds of hot smoke formed towering thunderheads, which cast lighting down among the dry trees and urged the flames forward with gusts.
The Nature Conservancy had been preparing for this moment for decades. The Jim Castles research station sits at the north end of the Sycan Marsh reserve: 30,000 acres of mixed wetland and dry pine forest in the Klamath Basin, which the nonprofit acquired in the 1980’s. The conservation group worked with the Klamath Tribes that call this area home to restore the forested areas to the landscape that existed before Americans took over the land and began putting out fires. They cut down small trees, leaving fire-adapted specimens like thick-barked ponderosa pines, and they began setting fires, allowing them to consume decades of needles and branches on the forest floor.
You might have heard about a funny, cute, excitable herd of goats feasting in Idlewild Park in Cranbrook, British Columbia. The goats of Vahana Nature Rehabilitation were at the park in May eating up a patch of Canada thistle. Canada thistle is an invasive plant that is considered harmful. Invasive species are plants and animals not native to BC.
Based in nearby Kimberley, Vahana provides vegetation control throughout southeastern BC using a herd of specialized goats and a unique method called target grazing. Target grazing is a growing industry in Canada in the ongoing battle against invasive plants, says Cailey Chase, who operates Vahana.
“The goats will eat everything down, and we’ll bring them back in, and they’ll eat everything down again,” she says.
Whether she was born with it or it was modelled by her parents, working hard is in Laura’s Livingstone’s blood.
After high school Laura worked with a grading crew that built logging roads all over B.C.’s interior. She developed a passion for 4x4ing and cars when she worked for a local auto parts store. And for the past twelve years she has been working for Teck — one of the world’s largest zinc and lead smelters — in Trail, British Columbia. First as a janitor, and today as an operator in the sulfide leaching plant.
“My family isn’t surprised that I ended up with an industrial career. I’ve always had untraditional jobs,” Laura says. “I could never see myself working behind a desk or somewhere I’d have to worry about what to wear each day.”
Holly Strilaeff has lived within a stone’s throw of Castlegar, British Columbia, for all of her 63 years. Her dad owned a stucco and plaster business and later ran one of the first vegetarian restaurants in the area, Doukhobor Village Foods, near the Doukhobor Centre with Holly’s mother. Holly helped with the family business that ran for 18 years.
Holly grew up in a culture where taking care of where they live is highly valued. Her parents had fruit trees, milk cows, chickens for eggs, and a huge garden to feed the family.
“We grew up making our butter, our cottage cheese. It was a good starting point for me, and now my granddaughters do the same thing. Every time they come to visit, this is what we do. We pass on the traditions.”