On the Farm: The Smyths have set up their home in the operation’s shop/barn as a way to ease the costs of developing a new farmyard
What do you get when you cross a shop with a house?
A “shouse,” of course.
That’s the nickname Tyler and Suzanne Smyth have applied to their workplace and family home.
The building is actually a pole shed they bought a few years ago, along with two quarters of land at Cantuar, Sask.
The property had no house so rather than going further into debt, the Smyths retrofitted the front half of the 48-by-80 foot shop with a small kitchen, bathroom, living room, mechanical room and office.
Their bedroom is a fifth wheel camper parked inside the shouse for the winter. So far, the arrangement works.
“I can’t say it’s always butterflies and rainbows. It’s been challenging,” said Suzanne.
“We sleep in the camper. When we created and designed it our friends suggested putting bedrooms in, but I put a hold to that because that meant this was forever. In the end I do want a house on this property.”
Added Tyler: “I love it, personally. It’s awesome for calving. The cows are essentially a room away from where we are. Everything of course is sealed each way, but they’re right there and for calving and that kind of stuff it’s good.
“Of course, the kids love to say that we live in our barn, which we do and we don’t.”
However, he said their lifestyle does harken back to homestead times when pioneers built their barns before their homes in order to stay warm during the winter and stretch their limited resources.
“We’re not nearly in as difficult times as they had. I mean, we have natural gas and electricity and that kind of stuff right at our fingertips that makes our living fairly problem-free,” he said.
“So it was a financial thing to try and soften the blow of setting up a (home) yard. The goal was always to have a house in two years.”
The Smyths run a herd of 100 purebred Charolais as well as some Charolais crosses that are promoted and sold as prospect steers to 4-H members.
Showing cattle at 4-H events is how the couple met. Both grew up on Saskatchewan cattle farms and were involved in showing cattle and working for other purebred breeders.
That experience led Suzanne to start her own cattle show supply business.
From the shouse, she stocks and sells items used for exhibiting cattle, ranging from blowers and clippers to glue, paint and combs.
The shouse is also home for her new online boutique business featuring western inspired jewelry and clothing.
Tyler works as a key account manager at Pattison Agriculture, a John Deere dealership in Swift Current.
It likely won’t be long before their two children, Cooper, 5, and Scarlet, 4, are in the 4-H show ring with their own cattle.
Living in the shouse has advantages for their education and entertainment.
“Our living room has two windows that look into our calving barn and my kids have watched a lot of cows giving birth. My five-year-old son can tell the orientation of a calf. If it’s coming correctly with dewclaws down and if he sees dewclaws up in the air, he’ll yell, ‘it’s backwards’. They’ve got a lot of education that way,” said Tyler.
“So they get to see the work in there and I have no doubt they’ll be part of the whole process moving forward and that’s pretty important to me.”
While they plan for a real house someday, Suzanne also appreciates some of the advantages the shouse offers, especially in -40 C temperatures.
“There’s definitely things I will miss about living in the shouse. Waking up in the middle of the night, turning on the barn light, looking out at the cows and making sure nobody’s calving and then taking 10 steps and going back to sleep is so awesome versus walking across the yard,” she said.
But as soon as summer returns, the family is looking forward to moving the mobile home out of their shouse and setting it up in the yard or taking trips to the lake.
“It’s funny, the kids have this kind of weird concept of camping because they think that we’re always camping. But our daughter’s kind of put it all together. She goes, ‘I can’t wait to go camping.’ I asked her, ‘what does that mean?’ She goes, ‘well, that means we get to take the camper out of the shouse,” laughs Tyler.
“That just means that we’re taking the house out of the house.”