Goats and rabbits and a neighbour, oh my! as couple caravan from Yukon to new home in New Brunswick
Gemma Pearce grew up in London with a love of all things “exciting, fun and challenging,” which included a desire to travel. Pearce’s heart is now in New Brunswick with her husband, Jeremy Duplisea, and their menagerie of farm animals. It has been a long journey for her to get here.
After her informal schooling, Pearce went on to study photography at the University of Wales. Upon completing her courses, she promptly got a job on a cruise ship that would take her to dynamic ports of call. During a tour of northern Norway, Pearce got the opportunity to work with sled dogs. That encounter led her to taking others on sled dog tours in Iceland and Sweden.
She returned to London to work, but Pearce’s desire to explore the world could not be sated. She came to visit a friend in Canada. While here, she looked for opportunities to volunteer with sled dogs that would satisfy her visa requirements.
There was a lady in Dawson City, Yukon who was looking for someone to assist her in moving her sled dogs from there to Fairbanks, Alaska. Pearce jumped at the chance. While in the Yukon, she met Duplisea, her future husband who was originally from Fredericton, New Brunswick and spent the next few years travelling from Canada to the U.K. She would work summers in London at “bars and markets” until she saved the funds to return to Canada for the winters where she could stay for six months at a time.
Pearce finally immigrated to Canada in 2016 and got her permanent residency in 2019.
She and Duplisea started a hobby farm in Dawson City. They also quickly forged a close relationship with their neighbour, Cathy, who was a widow and had lived in Dawson City for 40 years. While in the Yukon, they lived off-grid and wanted to continue to do so, but the government changed the regulations regarding the owning and importing of goats in the Yukon so plans were made for a move.
Upon discussing their options, Pearce and Duplisea decided to move to New Brunswick. As long as Pearce was surrounded by nature, she “would be happy.”
While working on what was sure to be a challenging undertaking, the one thing they were sure to regret was leaving Cathy behind. She also lived off-grid and Pearce and Duplisea had spent the winter “helping her with anything she needed.” At over 70-years-old, Cathy was beginning to struggle with everyday chores. They would worry about their friend, but their minds were set; New Brunswick would be their new home.
Pearce and Duplisea had the idea to start a new business in New Brunswick, but would require a large parcel of land to do so. They were lucky to acquire 42 acres in Cornhill, N.B. that had “only been on the market for six days,” Pearce says.
As their plans took shape, they encouraged Cathy, a former nurse, to move with them. Originally thinking the idea was “crazy,” she made up her mind to accompany them, saying, “Yes, let’s go. It’ll be fun to live in a new place!”
With their preparations complete, the caravan was ready for their journey of 8,000 kms to New Brunswick, or so they thought. “We had to delay our departure for a week due to the wild fires and the highway being closed,” Pearce says, but on July 7, 2022 at 3 a.m. they were on their way.
Their convoy consisted of Pearce and Duplisea driving a school bus, Cathy and a friend who had flown to Dawson City to drive back to N.B. with them, driving her car, along with six goats, six geese, nine ducks, seven chickens, two rabbits, and three dogs. This was an arduous venture and it wouldn’t be without a couple of hiccups.
Even before they left their driveway, one of their dogs was injured during the excitement. Thinking it was a major injury as the dog couldn’t walk, they drove to Whitehorse where a vet, after a major expense, declared their dog okay and with a bottle of medication they were again on their way.
In Shawville, PQ, a lady named Fiona had offered them a place to stay with lots of room for their animals to roam for the night. Unfortunately, their bus broke down in Fiona’s driveway. Thankfully, Pearce says, “Fiona was kind enough to let us stay four days while we found a new vehicle as parts for the bus would take weeks to acquire.” They were able to sell the bus and purchase a new vehicle that accommodated their animals.
After 18 days, they finally arrived at their new home, which consisted of only woods until they cleared some land so barns could be delivered for the animals. Pearce says, “We were fine living in a tent and the barns arrived, so the animals had their home now that it was getting colder.”
When asked what she loves about New Brunswick, Pearce doesn’t hesitate. “It is the people. Their kindness and generosity have overwhelmed us. Our house is here, but has to be built and we have scores of volunteers to help that are both assisting with the construction and supplying the food. This is the perfect place for us to start our new business and make sure our roots are firmly planted.”
Duplisea, a carpenter by trade, is going to build cabins (one in particular for Cathy and five or six others for guests) next year to enjoy their new venture: Lost in Spruce, a farm glamping getaway. Guests will be able to delight in “both the peacefulness of nature and help with chores to experience what farming is all about. Of course, our animals are friendly so they will get the opportunity to play with them too.”
Since fresh farm eggs for breakfast and spectacular night skies away from light pollution are included, they hope people from anywhere and everywhere will take advantage and reserve their time when they open next year.
Committed to living life off-grid, they are drilling a well and having solar panels installed, and collecting rain water for use in their garden and for the animals. They added to their brood since arriving so there will be no shortage of chores but, as Pearce says, “They love every minute of it.”
She definitely has no regrets about moving to Canada and settling here in New Brunswick. Pearce says, “We love it here and nothing will change that. People are already interested in what we are doing and anyone is welcome to drop by.”
You can find ‘Lost in Spruce’ on Creek Road in Cornhill, N. B.