While we were in Wisconsin, we were picking out the next batch of AirBnBs/location and Andrew stumbled across a farm located in extremely remote Jansen, Saskatchewan. The price was right (about $700 for an entire month of stay), and was a gorgeous looking farm filled with goats, cows, dogs, and a private lake. Plus there were ATVs and horses we were allowed to just use whenever we’d like. It seemed like a perfect place to relax and recharge for a month, and it was in a good spot to be able to explore the other 3 things we wanted to hit in Saskatchewan (Prince Albert National Park, Regina, and Saskatoon). We booked it, and were eager for our stay on the farm.

We drove the 14 hours from Denver, CO to Jansen in a two day stretch- a beautiful drive through Wyoming, Montana, and the lower portion of Saskatchewan. We even “booped” North Dakota on our way so we could add it to the list of States we’ve visited.

Finally, we pulled into our AirBnB. It was gorgeous, beautiful land and we were both so excited for the stay. We met our host, a lovely woman and her husband who had lived in Canada for about 11 years. Our arrival was marked by a Very Large Bermese Mountain Dog who took a while to warm up to our presence, but was happy to drape himself over our shoes for pets once he did.

The lake on the farm
Bermese Mountain Dog
Very Lorge Dog

Our host showed us to our house, which was a trailer that had clearly seen better days. We’d been set up to have appropriate expectations about the house from the listing and from the host and new that we were staying at a *farm* in rural Canada, so it wasn’t immediately concerning. We shrugged and got moved in. The inside was better, definitely more rustic, but not unacceptable.

After a shamble around the property during which we scared the cows and got absolutely eaten alive by mosquitos, the owners gave us a brief tour (I learned how to use a Traeger smoker!). We also got to pet a litter of 5 week old Bermese Mountain dog puppies- they were brain-meltingly cute. Our hosts also showed us a firepit- Andrew was eager to make a fire for us to relax at (and to help keep the bird-sized mosquitos away). I made us a couple drinks while he got the fire going, and we sat back to enjoy a pleasant night.

A pleasurable fireside evening- 10pm here

I decided to go to bed around 1130; it was barely dark but I was exhausted. As I’m getting ready for bed and plugging in my phone charger, I notice a large quantity of mouse droppings behind the headboard of my bed. Super gross, but there wasn’t much I could really do at that point in time. I figure, it’s a farm, they just missed a spot while cleaning up and I’ll do it in the morning. I do decide to sleep the opposite direction on my bed so my face isn’t right in the mess, but still sleep fitfully, grossed out. Suddenly, I feel something creepy in my hair and wake up ready to absolutely lose my shit. I rip out my earplugs and ehar Andrew’s voice telling me to wake up, the aurora is happening!! Way better than the mice I was imagining.

The Aurora Borealis, Jansen, SK
Neon green!

Seeing the aurora has been on both of our bucket lists for a long time, and it was absolutely phenomenal to get to see. It was also a complete surprise- we’d been told that it wasn’t the right time of year for it, and it had been extremely cloudy all day. Apparently as he was putting out the fire, Andrew happened to look up and see the brilliant greens flashing and rushed to come grab me. Watching the green lights dance and strobe across the sky was surreal. The colors, the way they move, it felt like watching science fiction. We wondered how ancient peoples must have felt when they saw the aurora- was it scary, beautiful? We sat outside and watched them until the clouds moved back in and we couldn’t see them any more. It was truly a special end to a wonderful day.

Buckle up, it’s gonna get gross.

As magical as the evening was, our morning was decidedly not. After waking up and making a pot of coffee, I got started on unpacking and immediately noticed WAY more filth all over the home. Bugs, mouse droppings, moldy ceilings, just a general level of icky things that went beyond just a slightly unclean home. Entire cabinets in the bathroom and kitchen that were in no way useable. This was a level that I would not be able to clean with just a few Clorox wipes and a broom. I halted packing after not too long and went to wake up Andrew and talk it over. Sitting on his bed and chatting, I noticed even more mouse… stuff around his bedroom. Y’all it was just everywhere in this house. I was getting genuinely concerned about us living there for a month and spending 20+ hours a day breathing in this soup of… unpleasantness. Reddit threads about hantavirus were dancing through my head. I’d already needed to hit my inhaler a few times- after talking with Andrew, he also said that he was having major issues and was not feeling well (he’d just gotten over an illness a day or two earlier and had been feeling fine when we got there, but had suddenly taken a dive the next morning). We went pretty quickly from talking about cleaning, to “do you think we should even actually stay here?” Was it a safe place for us to live and work in? Was it worth a risk to our bodies to live here? Our cost was non-refundable, but was not outrageous. Each of us felt like even if we couldn’t work with AirBnB on the cost of the house, it had still been worth it to see the aurora.

Ultimately, we decided pretty quickly that no, this place was not actually a tenable place for us to live for a month. It wasn’t worth the risk. I appreciated that we were able to come to our decision pretty quickly and once we did, things moved pretty quickly. I started taking pictures of the issues so we could send them to AirBnB, while Andrew got on the phone with AirBnB support and started our case. Then I started re-packing all the stuff I’d spent the morning setting up. Luckily, the host was extremely kind and understanding, and didn’t give us a hard in person or on AirBnB.

It was a sad choice, but the right one. Each of us had been dreaming about a month spend in the country and having a relaxed, beautiful time petting dogs, making fires, seeing the aurora again, and giving up on the AirBnB meant giving up on that. Heartbreaking, but necessary.

The bright spot is that this was one of our nightmare situations come to life and we handled it well and most importantly, so did AirBnB. They were wildly responsive to our situation, and once we had uploaded pictures of the ick, they agreed within maybe 10 minutes that the place was not habitable per the AirBnB Aircover policy, and were issuing us a full refund, plus a coupon worth 30% of our stay for our next stay. I booked us a new place in Regina as soon as we knew what the deal with AirBnB was (the Aircover promises to refund you OR get you in a new place with a similar value, so we wanted to wait). All in, it was 2 hours from decision to leave, to pulling out of the driveway.

So now we’re in Regina (“Regina, rhymes with fun!”). Much closer to things to do (a blessing and a curse), and sadly bereft of puppies. But, we’re safe, and nothing can take away the experience of our one beautiful night on the farm.