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A single gay woman on & off grid in Nova Scotia

I live in a seven-person cabin tent with a blow up bed, recliner and metal stand for hanging clothes .I picked up the stand at Value Village; it ws likely a throwback from the old Zellers store. It works great and keeps things hanging and not getting musty in the totes I have at the head and foot of my bed.

Photos: supplied by RB: "These show a progression in the setting up process.
Yup, I did have a recliner in there too!" Click on a photo to get a full size version, or the gallery icon at upper right.

Each morning has a routine of sounds. Starts first with the owl outside my tent at day break. Then the birds start their singing, then by 8 it is the mourning doves that go for about an hour . Of course, there is always some frisky squirrel who loves using the tarp over my tent as a personal mini trampoline which can go on all day. So first of all, living off grid is NOT as quiet as you may think. There are times I wish I had a shot gun.

As a single gay female who just turned 60 and who grew up on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, I can honestly say, off grid, isn’t unlike being on the grid: a few more conveniences but the life is simple and good. As for being gay, well that is another story.

It isn’t that there were never gay couples where I came from. There were and still are lots of women living together as “sisters, best friends or older cousin”. Hell, I’m almost positive one of my aunts would have been so much happier with a woman. I had another who lost her husband young, and I think she secretly did a happy dance – he died of a brain tumour and no, not arsenic. She then moved in with a “friend”. There were always ways around things and even to this day, folks don’t say, “I am gay and this is my partner," in many rural places. Many still say, “and this is my roommate Susan.” Yeh right. If you say so.

The table under the canopy with BBQ, a mat outside the tent entrance, and a rechargable air mattress inflator

One thing I have always been and always will be careful about living off grid anywhere, is location. This matters if you are gay or not; if you are a gay couple, even more so. There are plenty of yahoos who drink too much and become smart asses.

There used to be plenty of places you could sneak into and put a tent up or a little camp and it was no big deal. Stay as long as you want. Now most places you go, someone has put up a gate or fence or posted signs. You have to find someone with a big, out of the way lot at a cottage or something to be safe or head so high in the hill no one will notice you. Not because you're gay, but because how dare you camp on my land. Oh, I still know places with crown land but I'm getting too old to go hiking over hill and dale to have some peace. I just wear ear plugs.

Always do things legally and in writing. Your hippie friend today could be someone who has changed a lot in 20 years.

Mind you, if you want to do the true off grid long-term living, that requires land ownership. Don’t make the mistake my friend did of agreeing to pay a long-term loan payment on land to build his house, only to find out years later they changed their mind and called it “renting” instead, and kicked him off. Always do things legally and in writing. Your hippie friend today could be someone who has changed a lot in 20 years.

Currently being gay is very different than it was even twenty years ago where it just wasn’t safe for a single gay woman to live off grid where anyone could find her. Not really. If you were smart and owned land in a small community somewhere, then that’s okay. There were others around you that had your back. However, normally if you were going off grid somewhere, it just wasn’t safe to be known. Hell, it wasn’t safe on grid either sometimes. Lets face it ladies, how many times as a gay woman have you been approached by a guy saying he could “convert you because you don’t really know what you are missing.” God, if I had a dollar for how often I’ve heard that line.

A screened area under the canopy withfolding chair and a small table.In high school all of us that were “distinctive” gravitated towards each other. However it was, in my experience much harder on the males in rural places than the females. Girls were thought to be just “going through a phase.” For guys, if they got labelled, it was much more difficult. Then living in peace meant going to bigger cities and there was no off grid living there.

I have been a single gay woman all my life so I cannot relate to off grid living as a couple. I do know couples who have done it, and many who are thinking of doing it. Aids to make living off grid easier have also changed for the better in the last few years.

I remember living up in Northern BC when I was pregnant (where else would you go?) I found a little cabin on a lake. I was told to visit another couple and they put me onto the place. A wealthy German heiress younger than myself had fixed the place up and had a child there, so everything I needed was there. It was lovely in spite of blowing snow at 8 months pregnant on windy days or showing the young yahoo driving a snowplow how to rock the vehicle and get unstuck. Didn’t even drop the blade after and clear a path. Gee thanks.

I had a gas powered Honda generator and it was a god send. It made things very cozy. I could recharge the car batteries and run a sewing machine or watch videos on the TV. Very civilized. I tell you though, sleeping at night with a baby in your bed who woke up frequently was difficult.  I was told to change him every time he cried so I did. Later, my midwife told me I had rocks in my head to do that!  Yup, that was me. I had singed eyebrows from holding a lit match in my mouth while I fumbled for the flashlight. Lack of sleep didn’t help. He nursed every 25 minutes. My goal as a parent was to keep him alive until he was 16 and out of therapy as an adult. So far so good.

Off grid living can keep you healthy and strong, but it is still a lot of work. 

We came back to NS when he was just over a year old. I was sooo happy to turn on a light switch, flush a toilet (MAGIC!) and turn a tap for running water. Off grid living can keep you healthy and strong, but it is still a lot of work. Now I have a Jackery (a portable power station that can be charged by a car, house power outlet or solar panels. That’s a deal changer. There are small portable windmills -- not made from old Chevy alternators recharging car batteries like the old days. Like everything, it costs money but if that is the life you want, then it is an investment well worth making.  Also, you can buy wood stoves with a water reservoir just like the ones in the olden days. Beautiful and practical. There are water purification systems that are so easy and solar powered pumps and on and on it goes. Great fun.

Currently, things are so different being lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, fluid whether you live on or off grid in Nova Scotia. I was recently reading an article about the amount of gay businesses opening up on the Eastern Shore where I am from. WOW.  Previously that NEVER would have been the case. No way. Even in the school system it is so different. There are clubs in most schools on the South shore. I was checking in with my son about him having a gay mother because I always kept an eye on how he was fitting in and being treated at school. He said, “Mom my friends think it is cool I have a gay mother so don’t worry.” I thought, “WOW. Life has changed.”

Your past never quite goes away and there is always a part of me that evaluates wherever I live, just how safe it is to be out.

You know likely as I do, that at my age, being into a wee bit of my golden years, I am cautious. I went to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in the 80s. Me, the country bumpkin going to poetry readings and rallys and all the rest of it. There were some really brave souls out there who stood out on purpose and made things easier for gay folks today. I was more the observer, than the demonstrator. Your past never quite goes away and there is always a part of me that evaluates wherever I live, just how safe it is to be out.

Recently I spent 6 months in Colombia. Sadly not the jungle like Ecuador where I was during Covid lock down – a great way to to lose weight, by the way: having to live off the land because you can’t get out for food.

Colombia is considered one of the most accepting South American countries for gay people and marriage is legal. I still was not inclined to be truly out. Nope, it just did not feel safe. Now, in Thailand, hell yeah. Thais are great. Totally different ball game. They had a brochure for a bank and the older gentlemen was wearing make up and earrings. They don’t care, just laugh. Mind you, in the bars, there are women who are going to check you out... many are looking for a sugar daddy or sugar mama. Got to love the Buddhist way there.

Nova Scotia has changed. Living off grid is becoming the norm AGAIN. In the past, it was the ones called the “hippies” or “granola eaters” who went off grid. You were a fisherman who had a home on the coast where you fished so you didn’t have to travel so far. Presently, with the growing gap between those that have, and those that have not, there are going to be plenty of people looking for a better way of life than being one step from the streets or losing their homes. Canada is especially difficult at this time for single people. Well, I can say the M word finally, so I think I am ready to settle down with someone if she can find me.

Campsite with canopy over the tent and cooking table.Having been a loner all my life, I would suggest to be partnered before you try off grid living. When you live this way, communication with anyone else can be difficult and you may end up in need. I remember when I was about 7 1/2 months pregnant I crawled under a building to get some plywood and got stuck for a while. All I could think was the local headline, “Pregnant Woman Stuck Under Building Until Delivery” Now THAT would have been embarrassing.

In these trying economic times, a person’s resourcefulness is their greatest asset. Not the money they have in the bank, or any of that. In my grandparent’s time communities were what kept families safe and healthy and it looks like they will be again. The really exciting thing is, the gay community has been evolving and growing, while others have been following a “me” mentality.  We're in exciting but challenging times and all those like-minded do much better as one, than those who stand alone.

I am glad to be gay. 

RB can be reached at