A big big role for me this summer, apart from directly taking care of meal prep and tidying for said neighbour, has been to develop and manage his property.
The Grumpy Professor, as he’s referred to around these parts, is fairly open to ideas, mainly because he doesn’t really care all that much about the property, and is primarily interested in allowing the dog space to romp!
This has allowed me some freedom in my aforementioned development and management.
As I’ve been learning more about historical and current differences in how Indigenous Canadians and Canadians of Settler/Colonial descent view the concept of land “ownership”/use, I’ve been thinking a lot about whose land it all is, really, anyway. As a result, I have been finding opportunities to share “my” property and the one “owned” by our neighbour with others in ways that blends business and philosophy.
We have opened up both our properties to folks who want to camp here, either in their vehicles, their own tent, or one or more tents or small, rustic cabins we have set up on site.
As the GP is a huge introvert, and really can live up to his nickname of “Grumpy Professor”, I worded any ads quite carefully to disseminate both the rustic, simple nature of the lodgings (priced accordingly) and the sometimes problematic nature of one of the hosts.
Such calls bring to bear either fellow introverts or mathematicians (the GP is a retired math professor), or folks intrigued by and interested in what we have to offer. Consequently, over the past 6 weeks, we have enjoyed learning about civil war re-enactments from a lone traveler who stayed — bundled in multiple sleeping bags — in Rick’s stargazing cabin in early May, we have delighted in reading the poems on the road of two gals traveling across Canada in their camper van, we have learned to play poker with two young American campers who also hauled wood for us and watered some trees in exchange for the use of our parks pass and wood of their own campfire, and we have enjoyed several communal meals with one or several groups of visitors.
We’ve also had a number of visitors who have just kept to themselves, parked on “our” land for the night on their way to Souris or some other place.
Neither the rabbits in the back forest nor the robin whose nest (complete with three eggs!) is tucked in under the roof of the solar shelter near the front of Rick’s property pay any rent.
The struggle to reconcile what it means to “own” land vs to share it continues inside of me. On the one hand, who am I (or who is Rick) to decide who gets to use the property and when, and how much they should pay us for this privilege? On the other hand, having a well and outdoor shower installed costs money, as does the electricity to pay for the hot water bill. The composting toilet was not free to build and deliver to the back of the property, nor was the fire pit we had built, over which many of the people who stay cook some of their meals.
A lot of the proceeds (and then some!) are used to pay for the many trees Rick has been planting on his property. He is determined to contribute what he can to the betterment of the environment.
I relish my privacy and am very grateful for the privilege of home and land ownership. But I believe that the concept of “ownership” is problematic from an ethical perspective, and there are elements of this summer’s communal living experience that I wish I could enjoy year-round.