8 Questions with Jeff "Foreman" Noel

Happy Monday everyone!  As promised, this is the first of hopefully many "8 Questions" blogs where we'll be talking to someone who has gone against societal norms for the pursuit of a dream.  I chose Foreman as the first interview to post because he is responsible for (I believe) six children between his own and his step-children and therefore provides a contrasting point of view to mine.  Often, Erin and I hear "I'd love to ____, but I've got kids y'know."  This guy is proof that kids don't need to stop you from living your dream.

I've known Foreman since I was 19 years old, working at a landscaping company in Calgary and he's been one of my best friends ever since.  The last time I saw him in the flesh however, was the day Erin and I got married (6 years ago last October).  He was one of my groomsmen and the very last thing he said to me in person was "Can you return my suit tomorrow, I'm leaving first thing to go to BC and become a pirate."

Knowing the guy as long as I had, I was aware of how much he liked to illicit a "You're doing what???" reaction from people so I assumed there was more of a plan than that but I also knew him well enough to realize he would in fact be gone the following morning and it would be some time before we crossed paths again.

Today he lives out off the northern coast of BC in a town that takes at least three forms of transportation to visit (car, ferry, and magical wardrobe if I'm not mistaken) with his lovely wife, and beautiful children.  He runs cargo on a couple of vessels I believe but he is pretty vague when we talk about it over the phone or by carrier pigeon so for all I know, he did become a pirate.  

I've known the guy for thirteen years and this is literally the only picture I have of him.  Second from the right.

I've known the guy for thirteen years and this is literally the only picture I have of him.  Second from the right.

Was there a catalyst for your lifestyle shift?

There have been 2 major ones in my life that have led me to where I am today.
1) I was 27 years old and I was driving a full sized Chevy pickup truck with a 16 ft dump box trailer for a landscape company in Calgary.  It was around 8:30 am and I was stuck in a traffic jam southbound on Deerfoot Trail between Southland Dr.and Glenmore Tr. and I got the Road Rage so bad I almost ripped the steering wheel off the truck. I spent the majority of the day wondering why I was so angry all the time and what I could do to change it. I went home to my tiny 600sq. ft. apt (that was raising the rent from 650.00 a month to 785.00 that very month) and discussed it with my now ex-wife, and we made the decision to move to a smaller town where we could afford to actually buy a house and where there was 1 stop light in the whole town and if we really didn't want to stop at it, we could go around.
2) When that same ex wife and I finally split, I was left with nothing more than what would fit in my Landcruiser. I headed west to start over on Vancouver Island to pursue a dream I never thought would be possible for me. As flat lander, I set off to become a mariner. Through a set of serendipitous events (a few tragic events also) and hard work with my seamanship schooling, I was led to my hottie new awesome wife and a life of complete peace and tranquility. The tide now comes in under my deck and I thank my fortunes everyday that my broken road led me here.

When did you decide to pursue a more deliberate lifestyle?

I read a book that my hottie new wife had given me for Christmas. It was a book called "Chicken Poop for the Soul" and it was an adventure for one woman to find what she
referred to as food sovereignty. Since I've read that book, my wife and I have geared ourselves towards asking the question, "What if?"  So "what if the grid falls apart" Well we retrofitted our house with a wood burning cook oven. We've got chickens and goats, we're working on bees and pigs. We've been container gardening, we're setting up a permaculture garden and have plans for our greenhouse. We're focusing our lives on less of what we can buy and more on what we can produce.

How did family and friends react to your decision?

Mum was stoked. She was part of the back to the land movement of the 70's and as soon as I moved to a boat access only community and got chickens her comment was, "Oh my how everything comes full circle!" After having to leave the sanctity of her mountain cottage in the 80's to pursue work with my father in the city and raise me in the city in the 90's, I think she was relieved that I had adopted a more rural and naturalistic outlook on life.

What was the hardest thing to sacrifice to get you to where you are now?

I miss nothing. I don't spend $11.50 at 7-11 every day now. I quit smoking and brew my own coffee. I have nothing to be stressed about so why smoke? I no longer secretly long for
death. I like the fact that I'm 3 hours away from the nearest traffic lights. Having to think ahead to buy stuff oddly enough ends up being a positive. When you don't have a store within an hour travel you tend to stock up on what you need, which results in you not worrying about the interim and enjoying the time you have between town days. In the city it felt like everybody had their hand in my pocket. From the red light camera that caught me sliding on ice through an intersection on a winters day, to the parking for a downtown parade to a c-train ticket to get me past the city's urban sprawl to what the urbanites defined as "culture".

What is your favorite aspect of your more deliberate lifestyle?

My favorite aspect is what I feel I am providing for my children. When my 2 year old daughter helps me collect eggs with her little woven basket, or the fact I can disappear into the forest on my quad with my step-son and his .22. That the ocean is at our beck and call for fishing adventures or that we can pluck crab for our dinner with the faintest of effort. That the wind in the trees lull my kids to sleep or the whales say "Hallo"  as they pass our house. I'm raising helping hands for the future of localized food production and instilling in them the value of providing for themselves.
Describe a typical day before your change.

I was a trucker for the oil and gas industry when I moved tomy little small town in southern Alberta. I was at work at 6:00 am, coffee on, truck running by 6:30am. I worked typically 6-7 days a week. I once worked 44 days straight. I most often was home by 7:00 -7:30pm. Cost me a marriage, was never home. Had a ton of shit though. 2 SUVs, 5 motorbikes, windsurfers, vacations to Mexico, season passes to the ski hill,  new snowboard gear for me and the family every year, camper, cable, dishwasher. You name it. Meant nothing. it was all just crap I had to get rid of when it came down to brass tacks. 

Were there any financial implications to leaving your previous lifestyle?

I think overall I spent more money living in a lifestyle where I was never home and trying to compensate for my absence monetarily. Now my income is divided between necessaries and working toward the dream of a fully self-sustainable homestead. I understand now that my children don't want stuff. They want me, my time and attention.

Describe some of your current projects as well as any that you may be trying out in the near future.

The goat/chicken pen is coming nicely. 1500 square feet of fenced yard complete with 300 square feet of Taj-Maaaahal.  Should be complete in the spring with single pane antique windows and metal re-purposed roofing for the walls. There will be a greenhouse at some point and we are in the process of clearing for a big permaculture garden in the back. 

I have refurbished some lovely turn of the century fir single pane windows that will be implemented into my shop in the near future. The summer kitchen with its' wood burning cook oven to be plumbed in with a lovely brick and cedar backdrop also to come and plans for a farm gate sales shack to be moved up the hill (with a root cellar underneath??) is also in the works. 

So that wraps up our first 8 Questions interview.  Thanks so much to Foreman for the candid and sincere responses and thanks to everyone reading this.  I hope our weekly content helps inspire you to make positive changes in your own lives.

See you next Monday!