A Mighty Move

Posted by Sharon Labels: ,

A month has passed since my move to Alberta. What a month it has been!

It all started a year or more ago. As most of you know, I was living on 93 acres in the Chilcotin area of British Columbia and loving it. I had bought the property in 2006 and proceeded in the ensuing years to develop it. Although a beautiful setting, it was not horse-friendly at all when I purchased it. I immediately had all the perimeter fencing done and water bowls and hydrants installed. Next on the list was a barn, which I designed myself. I called these projects "The Big Three".

I never stopped improving my property - a log gate (peeled the logs myself), pens for the horses, a bigger arena (cut rose bushes and pulled roots for a year), a river stone fire pit, perennials, a vegetable garden. I created endless work but I loved what I created. I bred, raised and trained horses and coached students in the peaceful setting. I did not think I would ever leave.

As the years passed, however, (and with some pressure from others), I began to think I should re-locate to a not-so-remote place. I advertised the property and in October 2016, it sold.

I didn't even know where I would or should go! Initially I thought the Okanagan would be a good choice but a property hunting trip there underlined what I knew already - I could not afford to move the horses and I there.

Next I started checking out Alberta since two of my children are in Calgary. That quest led me to purchasing a 4 acre property between Sundre and Olds.

Now comes the hard part. I was moving because I felt it was what I had to do, not what I wanted to do. I had put real roots down on my little paradise. It was mine, what I had made it to be, and it was hard to leave. I could not lose an overwhelming feeling of there being no place for me if I left but, as I have done all my life, I put one foot in front of the other (and my mind) into preparing for the move. I had done this before - first from Saskatchewan to Armstrong BC, then from Armstrong to Hanceville - both times by myself.

I knew it would be a daunting job and it was. Fortunately, I had a few months to pack up but as the days passed, tension mounted. So many details besides packing - cancel utilities, sign up for utilities, organizing the move. And accommodating the new owners of my property, who moved a lot of belongings in before I was out. I started lists - one for me and one for the new owners with as many contact numbers and notes that I could think of. I even used up the stain on the deck to give it a new look and painted shelves and walls in the basement with leftover paint. Never let it be said that I left a mess!

Before the movers arrived, I considered which boxes, etc would go with me and the horses (why pay movers if I could take with me?) and when they arrived February 21, I was ready. I had been worried all winter about the road out and had stockpiled sand and salt to help if needed but the weather cooperated. It was a long day but my belongings left as planned.
Now the final push began. Friends from Alberta were going to arrive February 23 and would haul some of my five horses back. We planned to leave about noon on the 24th but since I did not have to vacate until the 28th, that date allowed for a weather delay. Until then, my time would be used in the final packing and cleaning up. My young friend Sarah helped and we scrubbed cupboards (slow tedious job) and walls. I either overestimated how much we could get done or underestimated the work to be done because we could not get it completed to my satisfaction.

My flat deck (loaded with feed tubs, water troughs, hay and barn paraphernalia) I parked at Chilco Ranch to pick up later.

On the 24th, a snowfall gave me cause to re-think the departure. I certainly was not going to put my horses in danger on the road. However, we (my Alberta friends and I) washed ourselves out the door and left at 2:30, packed to the gills - horse trailer, living quarters, back and front of the truck.

After the hectic departure (loading the mares was the easy part!), it was almost pleasant to be on the road. I knew that, although I would sometime visit friends in the Chilcotin, I had driven away from my little paradise for the last time.

I had arranged an overnight in Clearwater at a friend's place, an easy drive that first day. I phoned Lorene that we would be late but that I was still bringing lasagna and she said they would wait dinner. After the mares were tucked away in stalls, Bill, Marion, Jim, Lorene and I sat around the table exchanging horse stories for a bit before we all retired to bed. The next day would be a long one, we knew (I didn't guess how long...)

The first part of the drive the next day went fairly well. My horses all rode well and no mechanical problems either. We passed through several snow squalls but nothing serious until we left the mountains. As we drove east towards Edmonton, the storm worsened and, although I knew the other outfit was somewhere in front of me, we had become separated. When I pulled over to close a window on the trailer that had dropped open, I called Marion on the cell to let her know I was still on the road.

The already poor visibility became even worse when I turned on to highway 22 to head south - and it was dark! After sliding through a couple of red lights in Drayton Valley, I started looking for a place to get off the road. I didn't know where Bill and Marion were but assumed they were ahead of me since they had long ago disappeared into the snow. I would phone when I was stopped. I didn't want to just pull over for fear of being hit on the highway and eventually I saw a chain link fenced area off the road with a building and a car parked in front. I drove in, dug my fur parka from behind the seat and braved the weather - snow swirling in a strong northerly wind - to walk to the building and ask questions. It turned out I could not park there because the gate would be closed right away. The man told me however, that there was a gravel pit just down the road and he would lead me to it. I pulled in there and parked on the leeward side of a semi trailer to break the wind. The cell service was terrible though so I could not get word to Marion.

 I thought I would spend the rest of the night there but in a couple of hours the snow let up and I hoped I could creep along at least to Rocky Mountain House. (36 km) As soon as I got on the highway I knew I should not have moved but I did make it to Rocky. I parked the outfit for the night and phoned Bill and Marion, who were home in bed, to tell them I would continue in the morning.

I felt sorry for Cameo and Sapphire, already in the trailer for too many hours but they were so good - no tromping around or fussing at all. Mischa, behind the seat, was good too. I didn't get much sleep though because it was cold. I couldn't sleep when the truck was running and it didn't take long to cool off when it wasn't. At 5:00 A.M.  I walked to a 7/11 for coffee, took Mischa out for a bit, crawled into the trailer with hay for the mares (because the windows were frozen shut) and carefully started down the highway again. I arrived at the Brown's at 7:30 AM. I think my animals were in better shape than I was!

After unloading Cameo and Sapphire and tea with Marion, I headed to my new property. Home, even if it didn't feel like it.

Later that day, Bill and Marion brought their outfit over and we unpacked the two trucks, trailers and living quarters, including deep freeze which had travelled in the front stall of a trailer. It was a tight squeeze to get it in the utility room but we did it. And that night I spent the first night in my house - on the sectional I had bought from the previous owners because I did not have my furniture yet.

Without a chance to take a deep breath, the furniture arrived next morning at 8:30 AM. To say I was exhausted at the end of that day would be an understatement.

A visit from the Telus and Bell technicians and several phone calls took up some time in the next two days and then back to BC I went for the flat deck. More snowy highways on the way back but finally, on March 4, all my earthly belongings were in Alberta.

All the horses were still at Bill and Marion's since I knew I had to make another trip but the first thing I did was get Silk and Mistral. It felt a little more like home with horses here!

And then came the real work. Little by little I unpacked boxes. Most afternoons I drove to Bill and Marion's where Cameo, Sapphire and Perfect still were, to ride in their indoor arena.

And now, again, I can start over. I do not have a barn but hope to be able to afford a shelter for the horses. I have been removing and repairing barb wire fences (it was deja vous rolling the barbed wire exactly how I did the first days in the Chilcotin) and will be putting in posts (more deja vous...) when the ground unfreezes. I am planning a garden and will have to kill and otherwise remove grass (like I did in the Chilcotin) to make it. I hope to make a fire pit and leisure area as well and there's lots of painting to be done. The list goes on...

And how do I feel about all this? To be honest, it's not the same as when I moved to Hanceville ten years ago. I was excited and eager to dive into projects then. This time I'm having a tough time making the transition.There's a sadness with this move that I can't lose. Possibly I'm tired; maybe I'm just overwhelmed, a new feeling for me. (Statistics do say moving is way up there on the stress meter...) I'm working on it. More about that next post.


  1. valerie

    Sharon I could feel the loneliness and know how you must feel but remember that it is winter and spring is just around the corner when you can get out and size up the things that need to be done first. Take your time enjoy each day and remember that your family is much closer. ((Hugs))

  1. Sharon

    It isn't really loneliness, Valerie. I'm never lonely. It's more of a displaced feeling, not feeling like a belong anywhere. I put so much in the other property making it mine in all ways. I'm not going to say I should not have done this but it's something I will have to get used to.