When Bill Herdy and Debbie Irvine saw their rural property at Springhouse for the first time a decade ago they knew it was where they wanted to be.
At the time they were living in Abbotsford on a five-acre parcel of land and were beginning to feel crowded out by the growing number of blueberry farms cropping up in their area.
“We didn’t have any complaints about the neighbours, it was just getting really busy,” Herdy said during an interview at their home the last Saturday morning in May.
Herdy had reached the age of mandatory retirement as a prosecutor with the Attorney General’s office, now known as Crown Counsel.
Although he was busy still doing some ad-hoc work for the Attorney General, he and Irvine began thinking they’d like to move out of the Lower Mainland.
Debbie had vacationed near 70 Mile House in 2005 and suggested the Cariboo might be ideal.
“We came up here on a hot summer day and as soon as we stepped on the property we knew it was the place,” Herdy said. “I walked half of the property with our realtor and Debbie walked the entire perimeter of the 109 acres.”
One of the attractive features of the property is the fact it fronts onto Boitanio Lake, they said.
By November 2006, they put in an offer and when April 2007 rolled around they were permanently living in Springhouse with their five horses.
Herdy began doing ad-hoc work for Crown Counsel in the Cariboo, travelling to Quesnel and Prince George, as well as doing work in Williams Lake.
By 2008, he opened his own practice, and has been busy with it ever since, mostly with legal aid.
Herdy was born on Nov. 11, 1940 in Winnipeg, Man.
After completing a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Manitoba, he went on to study at the Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, graduating in 1966 and called to the bar in June 1967.
During his early days as a lawyer in the Peace River area he saw a variety of courthouses or courtrooms, he said.
“In Chetwynd we used a couple of offices that were on the second floor of the post office and in Hudson Hope the courtroom was the back of the coin laundry. Nobody was allowed to do their clothes on Tuesday if the court was in session.”
By the mid-1970s, he was working permanently in the Lower Mainland, mostly in communities outside of Vancouver.
His 35-year career — before the mandatory retirement — saw him working in private practice or for the Attorney General.
For a day-to-day courthouse, Herdy said Williams Lake is probably the worst facility he has ever operated in the province and he’s worked in 45 different court facilities.
“There are no defense waiting areas, for example, so defense witnesses sit outside in the hallway area.”
If he has clients involved in criminal cases they are kept in the cell block at the RCMP detachment across the street and the interview facilities are “horrible,” he added.
“You know the old movie theatres where you talk through a hole to buy your ticket? Well there is this very small room with this plexiglass divider down the middle with a small opening and that’s your interview facility.”
And the hours to access the cell blocks for interviews are limited too because they fall under the city employee hours not the RCMP, meaning he cannot meet with them after hours or on the weekend, he added.
“It would behoove the provincial government somewhere along the way to replace that provincial courthouse.”
Two or three times a month Herdy also travels to meet with clients at the Prince George correctional centre.
“When there are photographs and documents involved, how do you talk about them over the phone?” Herdy said.
When he talks to young Crown Counsel lawyers he said he advocates that at some point it is important to do some defense work because as Crown they are working primarily with police officers in a “fairly” regimented setting and may not learn anything about the accused person’s personality or background.
“Some people deserve to be in jail, but a great many don’t deserve to be in jail and the rehabilitation aspect should be predominant.”
Critical of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper for constructing more jails, Herdy said the thinking about that is to “lock them all up and throw away the key as long as it’s not me. People are very conservative on that side of things. They think punishment is going to solve the problem, and of course it doesn’t.”
Part way through our interview, Herdy was interrupted by a meow at the patio door.
Irvine walked across the room and let a grey cat inside.
As the cat nudged his leg, Herdy explained it belonged to one of his former clients who was off to use “Her Majesty’s accommodation for a period of time.”
Irvine does the books for Herdy’s private practice but is also very busy developing their small farm.
She has a degree in agriculture, with a specialty in horticulture.
Before she met and married Herdy in 2000, she had worked in commercial vegetable farming in the Sumas prairie area with her former husband.
When she and Herdy were looking to relocate, they wanted property with some pasture land and good gardening soil because she had a plan.
“I wanted to develop organic market gardening so we put in a quarter acre garden,” Irvine said.
They also built a workshop greenhouse and today she sells produce through Cariboo Growers in Williams Lake.
She also does a weekly produce bag program for about eight couples.
Another big project was to replace all the fencing on the property because Irvine wanted to start raising grass-fed finished beef.
“I wasn’t sure if I would like it,” Irvine said. “But a neighbour helped me by starting me off with two orphaned calves who were used to people.”
Irvine applied the knowledge she had of horses as prey animals to working with cattle.
“Horses are a prey animal and so are cattle, and of course people are like predators, so applying the prey predator principle between humans and cattle I was able to earn their trust.”
By making herself part of the cattle’s lives, going out to visit them twice a day with a bucket of hay cubes, she earned their confidence, she said.
“They are very curious and will eventually start coming up to you. It got to the point where I could scratch them and brush them.”
Her beef is grass fed and hay finished, with no antibiotics, grain, GMOs or hormones.
“Grain is not a natural food for beef and including it in the finishing process results in stress on the digestive system and an unhealthy animal,” she said.
For mineral and vitamin supplementation, they have mineral salt blocks and kelp meal, and for treats they are given alfalfa cubes, cut up carrots and potatoes and during the summer whatever she has finished in her market garden.
“They love cabbage leaves and pea vines,” she added.
Even though they are working full-time, Irvine suggested they are living in an environment that gives them a tremendous amount of happiness and serenity because of their Cariboo surroundings and the lack of stress that comes from traffic and congestion.
In the words of American legend Daniel Boone, Herdy said, “if you wake up in the morning and can see the smoke from your neighbour’s chimney, he’s too damn close.”