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Avola author recounts cabin life at 40 below

December 7, 2015 7:29 P.M.
Eleanor Deckert reads from her book, 10 Days in December, on Dec. 9 at Kamloops Library.

Having spent frigid winters in an under-heated log cabin off the grid, Eleanor Deckert has some sage advice for those with dreams of living in the wilderness.

The Avola author recently released 10 Days in December, a memoir recounting her adventures when she and her husband went “back to the land,” homesteading in the North Thompson.

“I would definitely say believe that it’s possible and believe that it’s worth it,” she said. “What you gain is your own self-awareness, finding out what you’re made of.”

Deckert visits Kamloops Library to read from her book and discuss her experiences on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m.

As newlyweds in 1978, she and her husband left their home in southern Ontario and headed west. They didn’t know exactly where they would end their journey, but like many young couples, they wanted to explore their own horizons. It was a dream she'd had since reading, as a child, Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods.

“I was raised in a church community. I wanted to leave that, yet I loved it,” she said of her inner conflict at the time. “Which came to be important when it’s 40 below and you wonder about doing that.”

Yes, —40C.

That’s how cold it got that winter, when they moved into their new $300 home in the woods between Avola and Vavenby on Dec. 22. The cabin was tiny — 14 feet square — had no electricity, no insulation and only a small kitchen wood stove for heat. She started stuffing newspaper, grocery bags and dog food bags — they have three layers of paper — and chinking cracks between the logs to keep out the chill.

“That winter was actually one that people remember. It hasn’t got that cold again lately.”

Naturally, as conditions wore on, she came to question the decision. There was no hardship, no tragedy, just an endurance test, she recalled.

“What is my commitment to the level of difficulty? I didn’t know there was such a thing as 40 below.”

They weren’t living remotely, just a short distance from town, while her husband took a job with CN. 

Deckert has been heartened by the reception the book has received, not just from others who ventured out to test their self-reliance in the wilderness in those years, but also from younger generations.

“This is something that’s bridging the gap.

Seating is free but limited, so registration is recommended by calling Kamloops Library at 250-372-5145.

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