Living Large Reveals: The Simple Life = More Life for Family

The meme they put on Facebook that reads, “When we crave simplicity, we’re not after an easier life..we’re after more life” describes the Barks family perfectly. Although it isn’t easy, they’ve found more life living in an off-grid cabin accessibly only by ATV and snowmobile.


Randy and Tara raised their three boys Dale, Shane and Kole for 9 months of the year in their trapping cabin in the wilderness in Northern Saskatchewan. Randy and Tara are both teachers and homeschooled their kids, which helped them take off to the remote wilderness to live their simple life dream.

“By living a simple life in nature and God’s creation, we began the whole ‘wilderness immersion’ as a fulfillment of Randy’s dream and a good healthy family adventure. Although we thought trapping was the fulfillment of the dream, it was so much more than that. That is simply something we do. The way of life became the dream. And the way of life became who we are,” Tara explains.

skidoo 7

The life is simple, but it isn’t easy. The cabin is off-grid, now powered by solar and heated in the brutal winters by three woodstoves. Water is carried to the primitive indoor toilet, shower and kitchen hand pump in pails and the family has to watch the amount of electricity they use during the long winter nights that can last up to 16 hours. “We learned early on to keep pioneer time- go to sleep early, at dark, and utilize the daylight well for chores,”

Tara describes the cabin that is built with few interior walls which makes it feel roomier and is easier to heat with only woodstoves. Curtains offer a bit of privacy and help control sleeping quarters temperature. The cabin has an open loft and is open above the kitchen/entry area right up to the cathedral ceiling. This open area greatly affects the sense of spaciousness but actually only takes away and 8×8 loft floor space.

The cabin has a living room, kitchen and bunk room as well. A corner of the living room is taken up by Shane’s drum-set and is the cooler part of the cabin with no wood stove nearby. The double barrel wood stove in the entry heats the main cabin. But the wood cook stove is generally fired up from morning to night with cooking and baking. The bunk room is heated with an old Kozi stove.

P1010136BreadBecause the cabin isn’t easily accessible and it’s hard to get things to it, the downsizing might have come more easily for the family. They learned very quickly “wants” vs. “needs.” Tara explains, “It turns out that our wants turned to more non-material things such as time together as a family that takes up no space at all!” At Christmas, they string popcorn together rather than decorating with store bought décor and make presents for each other with what is on hand. Or, they give each other the gift of time.

Kitchen view

Still, there is plenty of storage. The entire area under the stair well is a walled off pantry. There is also a trapdoor root cellar to keep canning and vegetables cool during non-winter months. They use the height of the cabin and  the boys each have their own large shelf that stores their clothing and books. They also have numerous high board game storage shelves as they love playing games together as a family, also above head level.  “We also have a small lean-to that we can store sealed barrels or containers. If we leave for any amount of time, we can set them indoors to protect from bears during non-winter months,” Tara says.

Pots and pans are hung from hooks in the kitchen and yes, laundry has been done by hand on a washboard, although Tara now has a small spinner washer that is powered by a solar generator. The clothes are then hung on twine from the loft rails in the winter.

Two of the older boys now live full time many miles away in their own cabin (but visit often), which gives Kole, now 16, the bunkroom to himself. The family also has two dogs and several cats that are true mousers.

Spring 2007, house, trapline, mag rack, kole buck 013

In 2014, the family agreed to be filmed for a Discovery Channel series called “Sons of Winter.” Their new venture is launching Bear Essential Life Magazine (BE Life), the first issue of which is going out today.

What do you think of their simple life!?

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6 Responses

  1. Mae says:

    It is a great life, we are Tara and Randy’s neighbors, we have been living this type of life for over 30 years, long before solar and computers in the bush! When My Griz had to work (drove a school bus) I stayed in the bush by myself all week, checked line and kept the home fires burning. LOVED it

  2. Jane Boursaw says:

    What a cozy little cabin. They’re *really pioneering it by living off grid in that rugged landscape. Good for them. I’m not sure I could go that primitive.

    • Living Large in our Little House says:

      I ‘ll have to agree, Jane. While I admire them, I don’t know that I could go this primitive. Although I’ve been proven wrong since embarking on this journey. I once didn’t think I could live in a tiny house or survive for 13 days in an ice storm without electricity either! 🙂

  3. PC says:

    Bought a spinner washer for Tara? Why not for the family? She the only one to do the laundry?

    • Kerri @ Living Large in our Little House says:

      Well, it was Tara who I interviewed, so not sure if anyone else does the laundry or not, we didn’t get into specifics of who uses it. 🙂

    • Tara-Lynn says:

      Lol, yes, the spinner washer was for my peace of mind, but living the way we do, every chore is a joint effort 🙂 Randy hauls all the water for me in 5 gallon buckets, and I run the washer, and we both hang laundry in the cabin (or out on the clothesline in spring and summer). And sometimes, when I am just chilling and reading a book, my good husband does a few loads of laundry without much help from me 🙂 It is not an easier life, but it is a good life 🙂