What compelled a nice Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York to spend a decade of her life as a hippie homesteader in the BC wilderness? Galena Bay Odyssey traces Ellen Schwartz’s journey from a born-and-raised urbanite who was terrified of the woods to a self-determined logger, cabin-builder, gardener, chicken farmer, apiarist, and woodstove cook living on a communal farm in the Kootenays.
Part memoir, part exploration of what motivated the exodus of young hippies—including American expatriates, like Ellen and her husband, Bill—to go “back to the land” in remote parts of North America during the 1960s and ’70s, this fascinating book explores the era’s naivety, idealism, and sense of adventure. Like most “back to the land” books, Galena Bay Odyssey describes the physical work involved in clearing land, constructing buildings, and living off of what they produced, but it also traces the complicated journey of discovery this experience brought to Ellen and Bill. Now, nearly half a century later, Ellen reflects on what her homesteader experience taught her about living more fully, honestly, and ecologically.