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Stories from a Kootenay hippie homesteader — Galena Bay Odyssey

By Contributor
April 18th, 2023

A writer and educator reflects on the idealistic, tumultuous, and eye-opening time Ellen Schwartz spent as a back-to-the-land hippie homesteader in the Kootenays in the 1970s.

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 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, Schwartz reflects on what her homesteader experience taught her about living more fully, honestly, and ecologically.

Ellen Schwartz is the author of eighteen award-winning books for children, as well as one non-fiction book for adults, a collection of profiles of women singer-song- writers. In addition to writing books, Schwartz works as a corporate writer and editor and as a freelance magazine writer who has published hundreds of magazine articles.

Schwartz has taught creative writing classes for many years at the college and university levels.

Her passions include reading, jazz dancing, baking, and hiking. After a decade of being hippie homesteaders in the Kootenay region of British Columbia, Ellen and her husband now live in Burnaby, BC.

Upcoming Events:

  • May 24 | Nakusp, BC — Author Talk | 7 p.m. Nakusp Public Library, 92 6 Ave. NW, Nakusp, BC, V0G 1R0
  • May 25 | Kaslo, BC — Author Talk | time TBC Kaslo Public Library, 413 4th St., Kaslo, BC, V0G 1M0
  • May 26 | Nelson, BC — Author Talk | 7 p.m. Notably, a Book Lover’s Emporium, 454 Ward St., Nelson, BC V1L 1S8
  • May 27 | Nelson, BC — Book signing | 2–4 p.m. Otter Books, 398 Baker St., Nelson, BC, V1L 4H5


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