Galena Bay Odyssey

Reflections of a Hippie Homesteader

By (author): Ellen Schwartz
ISBN 9781772034455
Softcover | Publication Date: April 11, 2023
Book Dimensions: 6 in. x 9 in.
288 Pages
$26.95 CAD
E-Book Price: $13.99 CAD

About the Book

FINALIST, British Columbia Historical Federation’s Historical Writing Competition, 2023

A writer and educator reflects on the idealistic, tumultuous, and eye-opening time she spent as a back-to-the-land hippie homesteader in 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 Ellen 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, Ellen reflects on what her homesteader experience taught her about living more fully, honestly, and ecologically.


About the Author(s)

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-songwriters. In addition to writing books, Ellen works as a corporate writer and editor and as a freelance magazine writer who has published hundreds of magazine articles. Ellen 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.


“In the 1970s, many people talked about getting back to the land, but few did; even fewer were as successful as Ellen and Bill Schwartz. With humour and impressive honesty, this vivid narrative maps a journey of idealism turned into action. Reading this memoir is like perusing the homesteading pages of the Whole Earth Catalog."
—Calvin Wharton, author of This Here Paradise
“I was fascinated reading vivid scenes of Ellen and Bill pushing up against the harsh Kootenay climate, isolation, wild animals, and society's expectations. How the land they ‘went back to’ offered a valuable education. Two city kids discovering trust, resilience, their own unique capabilities and identities, and the possibilities of a truly equal partnership.”
—Tara McGuire, author of Holden After and Before: Love Letter for a Son Lost to Overdose
“Ellen Schwartz went this way—and not that way—more than once in her life. For sure, circumstances shaped these decisions, but something deep held true, an essence of heart and of values that reveals the soul of the person. And we see that this is how the world changes for the better.”
—Judith Plant, author of Culture Gap: Towards a New World in the Yalakom Valley
"This is the compelling story of a woman who leaves her country for the love of a man to make their way in the Canadian backwoods. Ellen Schwartz writes in such a generous, open-hearted way that as you struggle with the couple you'll come to understand their dream of idealism and courage."
—Beryl Young, award-winning author of Miles To Go and A Boy Named Tommy Douglas