Fulltime Living in a Wall Tent, by Tim S.

As we watch the waning of 2021, and witness another emergency (re: Omicron) that the media, tech and the left has deployed to further erode our personal rights and freedoms, my young family have also seen the anniversary of Year Two of living off grid, in tents.

It is getting colder. The firewood is stacked. Our root cellar is filled, the chickens properly housed, a bit of insulation thrown on top of the tent and … there is still a whole bunch to do.


When Covid hit we were (like many) Canadians, suddenly reno-victed from our apartment. In part, the growing Central Bank/Fiat currency inspired asset bubble has rendered even middle-to-upper middle class earnings in Canada incapable of allowing a man, women (or dual income) from putting a reliable roof over their family’s head without risking a massive mortgage or punitive rent. In my hick town in Central Ontario, small run-down houses in a run-down City were starting at close to $750,000, and a two-bedroom apartment in a bad neighbourhood is close to $2,500 per month.

The Government, by the way, considers this a success. Real estate being the ‘ladder to upward mobility’ and all that jazz…

Covid money printing accelerated this ‘success’ and so my family, despite my earning a solid middle-to-upper-middle class income, found ourselves homeless. Now, we weren’t technically hopelessly homeless- I could use up nearly half my take-home income to rent that cruddy two-bedroom apartment, stuff my three kids in a small bedroom, take up the other with my wife, while the pungent odor of ‘legal’ weed wafts through the air-vents and under the door. Drug deals. Thin walls…

Sure, that was (and remains) an option.

However, I opted instead to take a bit of a radical route. I ordered a 14’x16′ Canvas Wall Tent, found a client with 30 acres of property they were not using, and made a deal. I asked for a 1-year lease on the property wherein I paid the property tax, and do all the upkeep and management of the forest. In exchange, they would let us put up our tent(s), plant a garden and raise some chickens.

The lease was extended, and we are good for another year.

So, for this period, my wife and I, along with our three boys (all under 8 years old) have been living in a tent.

Now, this may be ‘everyman’s’ dream. I watched a lot of Youtube, and read quite a few books on Pioneering and Homesteading, and thought that, absolutely, this was how I wanted to live. Furthermore, I’ve spent a significant portion of my life living in ‘tents’- my prior employment included soldiering, treeplanting, logging, and surveying. In all cases, we spent much of the year under canvas. Of course, the reality of raising a family this way is a bit more sobering. It isn’t that this living is, inarguably, terrible – but it certainly is a challenge.

  • You better not mind discomfort. The tent is cold at night. Last winter, with minimal insulation, when it is -30C outside, even with the woodstove blasting (and me getting up every 3 hours to stuff it) the tent can still get very cold. Waking up, and cooking in the outdoor kitchen in -25 degree weather is miserable. Washing dishes in -25 also sucks. Tents are drafty, and they buckle in the wind, and they creek, rattle, and shake. They get dripping damp and brutally hot in the summer. They are not houses… they are tents.
  • Start cutting firewood, yesterday. This relates to the first – you will be uncomfortable, but the more wood you have, the less uncomfortable you will be. We burn a lot of wood. I had put aside 5 bush cords, and still had to buy 2 cords at the end of season. Come Spring, I was cutting every weekend and splitting and stacking and splitting. I swing my axe EVERY DAY for at least 15-20 minutes just adding to the pile. Wood, wood, wood, wood, wood….
  • You have 225 square feet to live. Mostly everything you need daily is crammed in there. I co-sleep with my two oldest, and my wife has the baby tucked in with her. It can be brutally cold at night. Sometimes, we must bring the chickens in (a flock of 15). It can get really tight. My wife has the most luxuriant space- a curtain behind which she gets changed.
  • You never stop working. Ever. I get up at 5:00AM, do what I can around the property, fire up my truck, fry up some eggs then off I go- climbing and cutting trees all day (I’m an arborist). At the end of the day, I come home, clean saws, fuel up and grease gear for the next day…. And then my chores start. Build a coop. Weed a garden. Split more wood. Insulate this, frame that, fix this… You will work dawn-to-dusk, 6 days a week.
  • You are challenged physically and mentally, every day. You wake up cold. The rain pelts down on you. The snow is unrelenting for 5 months of the year. You carry your water to the kitchen (which is only now just under canvas). You hike in, you hike out, everything lifted, carried, or dragged. Things will be muddy, crooked, and cruddy. Get that tent up. Throw down some plywood in a less than perfect spot to put your tent on. Deal with the mud, the flies, the wasps, the mosquitoes. Check off that check list every day until you have a functioning but cruddily imperfect homestead- and then sort out the details

There are positives of living on an off-grid homestead. Let’s just look at the pain points in a different light.

  • Discomfort makes you stronger. You wear a sweatshirt when everyone else is bundled up in puff jackets and scarves and toques. You can work outside on the hottest days, the coldest days, through rain and sleet and everything else the environment throws at you. Work bare handed in -20. You don’t groan and cower into your sleeping bag in the cold- you simply wake up and get out of the covers. It is cold… but you act, anyway.
  • You cut wood, every day. You lift it, split it, and stack it. It feels s good to swing the axe for an hour- and that Gransfor Splitting Maul that some tech guy has hung up over his fake gas fireplace is, in your hands, worn, dirty and lovingly used. You carry your little Witterlings hunting axe everywhere. It is truly a part of you- used daily, well-loved and cared for. Your stacks become neater, and straighter, and the cords, baked golden in the sun, checked by the wind, are truly beautiful to look at. Having ten cords of wood, as winter comes, inspires much.
  • Your family is close. Your family value system takes root – you pray together in the morning. The children are schooled by Mom – the Sonlight program is miles ahead of government schooling in EVERY aspect. The children take breaks to deal with their chickens, attend to the garden, check on the bees. They do wind sprints and round-the-garden chicken races. They climb trees. There is no tablet, no Fortnite, no hours-and-hours wasted, with dilated pupils staring at a glowing screen engineered to flood their brain with dopamine (much like a meth addict). You tell stories at night. You read. You write and draw with the kids. Fiddles and guitars come out. That is how you spend the night.
  • You never stop working. You are physically tired, your muscles sore but strong, your hands gnarled- and you are proud of your scars. Your children point them out – ‘Dad, how did that happen?’. More stories. The boys work alongside you. The oldest, at 8 years old, can be trusted to do tractor work while you’re away. Working side-by-side with my boys is one of the greatest pleasures of my life. Whether were shoveling compost, raking out the chicken run, checking on the hives, skidding logs. They know about grease points and oil changes and how to start machines. They can swing a hammer like a man, and split kindling safely. They would not be like this, if we lived in the suburbs.
  • You are challenged mentally, and physically, every day. Affirmations like ‘do something that scares you’ are laughable. Is going to the ‘other café’ really that scary? Resilience is truly about practice, and this practice is hard. If you really want to improve your resilience, you must always be testing yourself. Set out on a two-day or three-day hike without food- know what it feels like to go hungry. In the middle of a snowstorm, set your kids out into the bush and get a fire going with a single match. Build that shed in -20 degrees. You train for worst-case scenarios, you train for them, and experience them- the visceral, painful reality of true hardship so that, if it comes, you know somewhat what to expect.

There are other advantages to tent living, and some disadvantages. It isn’t for everyone, but it is certainly a viable shelter for many. It can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. It can be wonderful. We save thousands of dollars per month. Our boys are comfortable with discomfort, barefoot for seven months out of the year, strong and healthy. We are ready. As vaccine mandates in our Country become more and more draconian, to even where you are required to show vaccine passports to buy groceries in some provinces (a current reality)- and the subsequent hatred and persecution of ‘anti-vaxxers’ rises to a near bloodthirsty fury… we have the ability to move. Mobility is everything. A forestry truck and a minivan can hold a lot of gear, a couple of tents, pull a chipper and a tractor. It can move us West, if the need arises. If the USA truly does break up – the Redoubt might welcome Christian families with Veteran dad\s and hardy sons and daughters willing (and increasingly able) to defend the homeland that welcomes them. Who knows what the future brings…