By Jaime Bayers
Plenty of people have attempted to hike the Appalachian Trail; many have had an encounter with a forest fire; and perhaps some have even felt the touch of a bear. But it is quite possible that Ron Melchior is one of the only people who can claim every single one of these things to be a personal truth and triumph.
Melchiore has been living off the grid for 37 years and has written a book, Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness, about the non-traditional lifestyle he had led with his wife, Johanna. He spoke with the Cooperator by phone, preparing for a talk about his life and living off the grid later this month in Sheet Harbour.
During the mid-1960’s and 70’s, the Back-To-The-Land-Movement caught Melchiore’s interest. As a young man going to school to deal with electronics, he decided, “There’s more to life than working it away.” He left the conventional life he was leading and started down a different path, eventually winding up living off the grid in Northern Saskatchewan.
While off the grid, Melchior has learned a variety of things, some of which need to be done, while others are more for entertainment. Logging has become a large source of income, and a garden provides most of the food that he and Johanna eat. As for hobbies, Melchiore does woodworking and carving, while Johanna does needlepoint, sewing, canning, and cooking.
Along with the skills he’s learned, Melchiore has had some rather unique experiences. He watched a forest fire after escaping to a small island on the water across from the fire. As he summed up this experience, “The whole world could have been on fire and I wouldn’t have known the difference.”
As scary as that sounds, Melchiore says the scariest moments were his interactions with bears. The first interaction was while he was sleeping. He awoke to being shaken awake by a bear that he quickly shooed away. The second interaction came when a bear tried to attack its way into their home. Compared to these moments, Melchiore said the fire was rough, and the Appalachian Trail was difficult, but not at all frightening.
Melchiore says he has no intention of giving up his wilderness ways. “We will never come back on the grid,” he said. And he finished the interview with some words of encouragement for anyone thinking of striking out on an unconventional path. “One never knows the path,” he said. “Regardless of what your aspiration is, don’t be afraid to go after an opportunity if it shows up. Life is short, and life is uncertain. It’s okay to live an unconventional life.”
Note: Melchiore will be speaking about his experiences on Saturday, September 30 at the Sheet Harbour Library from 11 am to noon.