What kind of people live on remote islands? Those who love the sea, obviously, but also those who prefer to depend on themselves and their neighbors tor things they need. My husband and I, together with his parents and sister and brother-in-law, spent a few days last weekend on the Queen Charlotte Islands (also known as Haida Gwaii) off the west coast of British Columbia. Access is by air or a 7-hour ferry ride from Prince Rupert.
When a return trip to the mainland takes at least two days and hundreds of dollars, you don’t make random trips for random items. You learn to plan well, make do, or do without.
We stayed at Toad Farm, a guest house at Tlell on Graham Island’s east coast. Our 2-bedroom, 2-bath house came with a fully equipped kitchen and everything we could need to cook for ourselves, including farm-fresh eggs from our host’s chickens.
He also has a small greenhouse to grow a few tomato plants, a good-sized garden, and rhubarb and raspberries. We noticed a similar lifestyle all across the island. A few sheep here, a large garden there, and chickens roaming in multiple backyards.
At one gift shop, we chatted with the owner about her lovely vegetable garden. Her husband tends it, she said, between painting watercolors for the gallery and daily fly-fishing. She commented on the need for a generator as the power goes out frequently, and they depend on their freezers to keep their garden produce, fish, and venison preserved.
Small black-tail deer were in such abundance we didn’t even try to keep count. Trout in the rivers are common, and salmon, halibut and crab are plentiful from the sea. The waters were rough the few days we were there. Jim put in a good effort to catch some crab, but he was skunked.
We stopped in at two farmers’ markets to see what was available. The first, in Queen Charlotte City on Saturday, had maybe a dozen stalls, many serving fresh, hot food. Tomatoes, lettuce, garlic scapes, and rhubarb were the main fresh produce. The second market, in Tlell on Sunday, had only four tables. Jim picked up a jar of jelly made from local salal berries. Delicious!
Remote living such as this is not for everyone. It takes careful planning and a willingness to adapt and make-do. Have you ever been to a place like this? What did you think?