Women also retire when couples quit the farm

Joe and Virginia Liebl get toget her with friends weekly to play canasta.  |  Mary MacArthur photo

Some women find more time for canasta, sewing and painting, while others tackle new projects such as canning potatoes

CAMROSE, Alta. — It’s been more than a year since Virginia Liebl moved from the farm into Camrose and the transition has been smooth.

“For me, I haven’t had trouble finding new things to do,” said Liebl.

On the farm, Liebl spent hours in her large flower and vegetable garden, as well as doing daily horse chores.

Now, living in an apartment, she has time to develop new skills and connect with old friends.

While she was still on the farm she drove to town once a week to play canasta.

“I couldn’t justify twice a week.”

After moving to Camrose she started playing canasta twice a week and became the club’s president. COVID-19 has paused the card club for now, but Virginia and her husband, Joe, and two friends have formed a small cohort to continue their weekly card game.

“We meet at each other’s homes and take turns hosting,” she said.

“It’s unbelievable how the time goes.

“We do play a lengthy afternoon.”

Hip surgery in the spring put a stop to walking, but as part of her recovery, Liebl is now outside almost every day to exercise and enjoy the varied walking trails.

Retirement has also allowed Liebl to take on new projects with a friend. Their first project was canning potatoes. Neither had done it before, but they sought advice from others and both had experience using pressure cookers.

Their next project was making perogies, something Liebl hadn’t done for years. They plan to spend their next project day making cabbage rolls.

“It’s a way of reconnecting with your friends and gives you something to look forward to.”

Liebl sewed while on the farm, but she now has more time to transform old bluejeans into quilts and cloth shopping bags.

“My vehicle is full of them.”

Moving to town has given Liebl greater access to puzzles, entertainment she and her husband enjoy.

“Being in town we have found more people who will trade.”

She’s also found a seniors residence with a storage room stuffed with puzzles and the puzzles in the room are now part of her puzzle rotation.

The pandemic forced Liebl to improve her technical skills, including learning how to schedule video calls on her computer with her family.

“I’m learning how to set up Zoom chats. Now you can see your grandkids.”

For the first time in years, she is mailing Christmas cards, each with a handwritten letter.

“They take more time, but I have lots of time.”

Esther Hildebrand of Crystal City, Man., said retirement has allowed her to learn new skills and amplify the skills she had on the farm.

It’s been 15 years since Hildebrand and her husband moved off the farm, but this was the first year she wasn’t back on the combine helping with harvest. The family hired a retired farmer and Hildebrand spent a couple of days kayaking with a friend while the rest of the family combined.

“It felt very, very wrong. I only did it two or three times,” said Hildebrand, who soon realized there was no reason she shouldn’t be out enjoying herself instead of sitting at home just because of harvest.

“It was a little bit about feeling about being needed. It’s all fine. It’s the way it is supposed to be.”

While on the farm, Hildebrand said she did a “ton of quilting,” including weekend quilting retreats. She started to paint while on the farm and now painting has become her passion. Two years ago, she had her own art show in Montreal.

When they moved into town their new yard was mostly thistles and dandelions. Over the years, Hildebrand sculpted the yard into a prairie oasis with flower beds, perennials, shrubs and some annuals. The vegetables are grown on a vacant lot across the lane.

“There is no way I am going to give up my yard for vegetables,” she said.

Barb Toews and her husband, Bill, moved from the farm in Kane, Man., to Morden one year ago after 39 years on the farm.

COVID and health issues have disrupted some of their retirement plans, but Toews knows moving off the farm was necessary.

“We’re very happy with the move. It was the right thing to do.”

Toews helps her husband, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, looks after the house, reads and likes to stay up-to-date by following local and international politics and world news.

She also tries to walk most days on the trails through Morden.

“I wish I was more disciplined.”

A previous job with an adult literacy program gave Toews computer proficiency, a skill she uses to stay connected with family.

While they haven’t seen their new grandchild, born in July, they stay connected with her progress through Zoom.

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