In England the directions to a rural home might read something like "head out of town on the High Road, and after going straight on for three miles, over four roundabouts and through six sets of traffic lights you'll see The Frog & Pumpkin pub. Turn left down Middle Wollop Bottom Lane and after another two miles, you'll pass St Mary up the Priory Church on your right, and we live off the second driveway after the red post box on the village green." That's rural. Your village has 2,000 residents.
In Alberta, the directions read something like "head north on Highway 5 for about 25 minutes, then take RR 250 (Range Road) west for about 15 minutes. At TWP 57 (township road) head west for another 12 km, then take RR 87 north for 4km and go over the river. Our house has the blue number sign nailed to the tree - you can't miss it"
You pass two or three other vehicles on your journey. Really, the average UK mindset cannot grasp the vast space and lack of inhabitants out here. And this is only Alberta, not the Yukon!
I start to get a bit antsy. I mean, there is just no-one else around. Which of course is the whole idea, but I feel insecure and my inner I-need-people-and-shops-and-there-might-be bears-out-there side comes to the fore. You see, I was brought up in quite a (cough) rural area in south-east England - but the reality is we lived six miles from a town and the local wildlife consisted of a mangy-looking fox and the occasional badger.
So what do you do when you live rurally? You collect animals of course.
As you can well imagine, my girls were in seventh heaven - the three dogs and five cats that greeted us on the driveway were just the appetizer.
They have two llamas .....
How could you resist those little faces? And those eyelashes?
Daughter Number Two was already in love ... with a donkey.
Donkeys may be the perfect size for a small cuddly 10 year old. Not so much for the 5'8" mature rider - you can hear that donkey groaning "c'mon already - someone get her off".
Say hello to a small Belgian horse.
There is also some room for some pigs, some cattle, and the one-eyed goat arrives next week apparently.
Unfortunately, the chickens didn't survive very long.
Because of course, apart from the animals you buy and choose to bring to your land, there are the "locals" upon whose stomping ground your have encroached. Regular visitors include moose, deer, bears, cougars and wolves.
I think I'd have a large gun cabinet at this point!
My husband's favourite creature of the day did not have four legs - but four wheels.
But boys will be boys, and so my three children took off to tour the acreage and gather as many mud splatters as possible.
In the meantime, I was quite content to take a seat indoors with my new friend.
I love moggies but my husband is allergic to them so we can't have any at home. So I take my pleasures where I can!
This 10-week old purr-bag was just so gorgeous, snuggly and warm, I could have smuggled him into my jacket without a backward glance.
And cute as a button, especially when he actually fell into this water bowl!
I can truly see that this life is kinda cool in an independant back-to-nature sort of way, and look, the school bus journey only takes an hour and a bit each way, and you can get your groceries all done in a 4-hour round-trip. Our host commutes an hour and a half into Calgary on a daily basis. I couldn't do it but I can see why they can. And this probably isn't even vaguely rural living by Canadian standards!
So with thanks to our hosts, bid farewell to the good life and I hope we can visit again soon.