Untimely deaths inspire acreage move

On the Farm: No Regrets Ranch features a chicken coop, greenhouse, woodworking and quilting shops, and a garden

MORNINGSIDE, Alta. — Don and Lynn Burdett dreamed for years that someday they’d have a home in the country. They’d grow a big garden, raise livestock, pursue their creative interests and provide a refuge for family and friends.

“We always had the desire to live simple”, says Lynn. “To live off the land.”

It’s not to say they didn’t appreciate Don’s 30-plus years in the oil industry. It had allowed Lynn to be at home where she could devote time to their two children. She ran home-based businesses over the years, volunteered at school, in 4-H and in community and sports organizations.

Life carried on as they knew it.

Then in 2005, the untimely deaths from cancer of two of Lynn’s best friends handed the couple harsh reminders of the frailties and uncertainties in life.

Aletha Dempsey, whom Lynn had met in the early 1990s while living in Irma, Alta., died that April, just days after her diagnosis. In June, Wanda Peterson, Lynn’s best friend since early adulthood in Wainwright, Alta., also succumbed to cancer. Peterson’s husband and Don were also best friends.

“It was a pretty rough go,” says Lynn.

The Burdetts began to prioritize the people and interests in their lives. They revisited their definition of when their someday would come.

“You have a finite amount of days on the planet,” says Lynn. “Only a certain number of times around the sun. You want to make them count.”

No Regrets Ranch pays homage to the memory of Peterson.

“She enjoyed life to the fullest,” says Lynn. “With her it was all about friends and family and life.”

The Burdetts, who had been living in Lacombe, Alta., since 2000, began their search for land.

“We realized, ‘if we don’t do it now — when?’ ” Lynn said.

In 2008, they found and bought their “someday.” “There was nothing here but two trees,” says Lynn of the 10 acres.

“When we stepped onto the property we felt like we had come home.”

Within a year, the two-storey 1,500 sq. foot passive solar home that Don designed was under construction. Passive solar building features collect, store, reflect and distribute heat in winter. They reject heat in summer.

That year, Don declined the offer of a promotion and transfer to Calgary.

“He knew the writing was on the wall,” says Lynn.

Two years later, in 2011, Don was packaged off in the midst of company restructuring.

Don left the oil industry in 2011 and started a new career in contract residential building construction. He built this gazebo, which gets lots of use at the couple’s regular gatherings of friends and family. | Maria Johnson photo

“He was fine with that,” she says. “We got into the oil patch for the money. We got out of it for the lifestyle.… This is our pine box exit house. We have 36-inch doorways and a bathroom on every floor for a reason. The staircases are wide enough to put in lifts.”

The heart of the home is Lynn’s kitchen. Big windows overlook the backyard gazebo, chicken coop, greenhouse and Don’s woodworking shop, where he often goes when he’s not busy with construction jobs.

Close by is a snow-covered garden plot, fruit trees, bee hives and pens for the few steers the couple raise each year.

The Burdetts are strong proponents of fresh, wholesome foods.

“If you look through my freezers and cupboards, you’ll find no processed and packaged foods. No store-bought bread. No store-bought cookies,” she says. “We’re trying to be as self-sufficient as possible.”

Don is in charge of the garden. He also enjoys winemaking from their home-grown fruits. A flip through his gardening binder shows an orderly display of colourful seed packs, instructions and personal notations.

Steps from Lynn’s kitchen, in the attached three-car garage, is her Prairie Points Quilt Shop. The store was located in nearby Ponoka for five years, but Lynn has operated from home since 2017. A lifelong seamstress, her passion for quilting swelled after her friends passed.

“I went into a real funk. I started quilting like a mad woman — it was my therapy.”

Within a few months, Lynn had completed a dozen quilts, which she donated to Palliative Care at the Wainwright Health Centre.

Lynn recalls a heartfelt letter from a woman whose mother had been in the facility.

“She told me how much comfort it brought to her.”

Lynn was deeply touched that something so simple could have such an effect.

“That’s how the quilt shop started.”

The successful retail venture had a higher purpose.

“We would have sew days. We would quilt and donate,” says Lynn. “To Ronald MacDonald House. To the Misericordia (Hospital). To (flood victims in) High River.

“Quilting has brought a lot of wonderful things to my life that I might not have experienced otherwise.”

Wilbur. | Maria Johnson photo

Prairie Points Quilt Shop keeps a Facebook presence.

Lynn also pursues her love of writing and cooking through her Gremlynn’s in the Kitchen column in the Country Register, an Alberta guide of specialty shopping and events.

By sharing her thoughts and recipes, Lynn encourages the appreciation of simple pleasures, the preparation of wholesome, nutritious foods, time spent with loved ones and the pursuit of happiness.

“It all goes back to no regrets,” she says. “You don’t want to step off the planet and say ‘I should have….’ ”

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