July 9, 2021

Finding a New Place to Call Home in Retirement

Beatrice Holt is an ARTA member and retired teacher/teacher-librarian, who worked in elementary schools throughout Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, and Calgary. She retired in 2006, at which point she and her husband set out on their next grand adventure: building the home of their dreams, so they could live their retirement in comfort.

As retirement loomed and the population of the city of Calgary grew, my husband and I made a decision as to where we would spend our retirement years. Both of us had spent our childhoods in rural Alberta settings. Perhaps it was this background that had us looking for a less-urban spot than our home in Calgary. Having two friends who had retired to Vancouver Island, we thought, why not us? We spent our 2005 vacation travelling up and down the island from Mill Bay to Comox, looking for that ideal spot without success.

So, then it was time to get serious and we obtained the help of a realtor. Again, as we explored, nothing proved suitable because by then, we had a house plan. The house plan was ideal in many ways, but there was a prohibiting factor in its design: a lot with a wide frontage was required to accommodate the structure. Once again, we were met with failure, but then an email from the realtor arrived with a listing for a vacant lot. In fact, it offered a bit more than your standard size, at 0.8 of an acre! As for its location, Nanoose Bay, it was a spot that I had little knowledge of, other than that was where the Fairwinds Golf Course was located.

House and yard, 2006
Backyard, March 2007

The decision was made, sight unseen, to purchase the lot. All the negotiations that followed were done by my husband as he made trips to the island and dealt with the site preparation and the builder. It was not until September of 2006 that I had my first visit to the actual site. I was truly dismayed as I viewed my future home! Could I really, really live here, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees, on a dead-end street? It was too late to turn back, instead, I turned to tackle the tasks at hand — floor finishes, cabinetry, paint colours, bathroom fixtures, lighting, tiles and whatever else was needed to see the house to completion.

It was the month of December 2006 when our Calgary house sold, and the following months were spent sorting through 23 years of home occupation. What to keep, what to give to charity, and what to simply trash. Next, we undertook the task of packing our household items (leaving the china for the professional movers). On moving day, March 12, when the movers loaded up our belongings, it was beautiful and balmy. A friend and I had a nice walk through the streets that no longer would be part of my neighbourhood.

But once again, Calgary had to show off its unpredictable weather. We woke up on the morning of March 13 to a blizzard! Nonetheless, we headed off on our new adventure, undeterred by the road conditions, hoping to catch the ferry on time to arrive at our destination that night. But mother nature had different plans! After struggling through the Hope/Princeton route, we ended up spending the night in Abbotsford. Thank goodness for accommodating relatives. Our official arrival at our retirement home is recorded as March 14, 2007. Next, we were to tackle what has proven one of the most frustrating and rewarding tasks of living on the island — gardening.

Filled with visions of how we would have flowerbeds, a pond, a vegetable, garden, berries, and fruit trees, we took on the task of preparing the soil. Unfortunately, there was a definite lack of it, but we did have an abundance of rocks. With perseverance and a lot of compost and loads of purchased soil, we were able to create much of what we had hoped to achieve. Additional investment in deer fencing has kept our backyard free of deer sampling our plants, but on occasion, we do get a “guest rabbit” that has chewed its way through the fence and into our yard.

Backyard, 2021