This archived Web page remains online for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. This page will not be altered or updated. Web pages that are archived on the Internet are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats of this page on the Contact Us page.
Way of Life
The Doukhobors arrived in Canada with only what they could carry in trunks. But along with their few possessions they brought two valuable things: their farming experience and their knowledge of how to survive through hard times.
For the first few years, the young men were away working for much-needed money. It was the women who had to do the farm work. The women, guided by the older men who had stayed behind, cut down the trees and hauled them away. The few ploughs they managed to get were shared. They could not afford many horses, so the women hitched themselves to the ploughs and ploughed the land.
It would only be a few years before the Doukhobors had agricultural machinery run by steam engines. But in the beginning, the women had to break the ground and plant the first crops of potatoes, barley, oats and wheat. Besides the farm work, the women also had to cook, clean, spin, weave and make clothes and bedding.
Work was generally organized by groups of families. Each group either cooked or cleaned and did laundry, in large iron kettles, for all the groups for a week. So each group worked for two weeks, and had two weeks off a month.
Life was very hard during those first seasons. The Doukhobors lived off the land, using grass in their soup and eating berries and mushrooms gathered by the children.
By the time the next winter (1899-1900) arrived, the Doukhobors had established their villages and built houses. The ground had been cleared and the first crops harvested. But the frosts came early and food was scarce. Gifts of food, clothing, stoves, lamps, cattle, tools, iron bars to make implements, leather for harnesses, cloth, spinning wheels and looms came from American Quakers, a group with similar beliefs to their own, and also from the Canadian Council of Women.