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Five acres and independence

It is a dream as old as our country itself: to carve out a living from a piece of land that you can call your own
Marilyn and Larry Lindahl in the honey processing room at their mixed farm on Cowichan Lake Road.

It is a dream as old as our country itself and has been immortalized in history books, songs and a thousand old stories told around the kitchen table by our grand-parents. To carve out a living from a piece of land that you can call your own and by doing so, gain freedom, independence and self-sufficiency.

The great Canadian dream of five acres and independence is alive and well for Marilyn and Larry Lindahl at the mixed farm that they call home on the Old Lake Cowichan Road. There is surely no better time to visit a farm than in the spring, when rebirth, renewal and hope are as plentiful as the sturdy lambs that crowd the barn.

For the past seven and a half years, the Lindahls have worked hard to build up a living and a way of life on their five acre parcel. The small farm where they raise sheep, rabbits and bees as well as growing fruit and vegetable crops has been a labour of love. The couple moved here from the Saanich Peninsula bringing their honey business with them.

“It was getting harder to keep bees on the peninsula what with the farmland and wild areas of blackberries disappearing,” said Marilyn Lindahl. “We moved up here for the bees, but then found this place which happened to have a nice old barn.”

Larry is a retired provincial government bee inspector and long-time bee keeper. Marilyn had been involved in 4-H and kept sheep as a kid so the next acquisition was a natural. They now boast a flock of 16 fine Southdown ewes and had a dozen or more lambs at last count. Southdowns are a dual purpose breed, usually raised for meat as their wool does not boast the long fibres favoured by spinners and weavers. The sheep are all raised on organic feed which means no GMOs (genetically modified organisms) which is extremely important to the Lindahls.

“We switched over to strictly organic feed which is more expensive but worth it. We noticed a dramatic change in the health of our animals,” said Lindahl.

Of course organic, GMO-free fed livestock in turn produces organic manure which goes on the garden beds where the bulk of the Lindahl’s fruits and vegetables are grown.

To battle the slugs which are so plentiful here in the valley and the bain of many a gardener’s existence, the Lindahls employ runner ducks. These flightless ducks are originally from Indonesia and are unique in that they don’t fly, are heavy egg producers and prefer foraging for slugs and bugs which cuts down on the amount of grain they require.

The Lindahls also raise New Zealand rabbits for meat and keep chickens for eggs. They extract the honey from their bee hives themselves and employ a local butcher for their lambs and rabbits.

“We sell everything that we grow right out the back door,” says Marilyn. “We have a steady base of customers for lamb and the honey pretty much sells itself.”

The Lindahls eat primarily food they’ve produced on the farm, either straight out of the garden or from stores in their freezer or larder. At this time of year there are still root vegetables in the garden and salad greens in the greenhouse.

One unexpected expenditure that they hadn’t counted on was a sturdy perimeter fence that had to be erected to keep the local Roosevelt elk herd at bay.

“The fence also helps keep bears and dogs out as well,” said Lindahl.

Also in the preventative measures department is their resident watchdog, which is not a dog at all. Starlight is a 12 year old llama who helps keep watch over the flock when they’re out to pasture. Her high pitched whinny and herding instincts have kept the flock safe from marauders on numerous occasions.

When asked if she had any words of wisdom and advice for others who want to pursue the “five acres and independence” dream, Lindahl replied “You should love gardening!”