There are many reasons why I would want to feature Cam & Michelle Mather on my blog. They are wild about gardening, they live off the grid, they operate a zero carbon publishing business...
...and they are amazing people.
I first met Cam & Michelle when I worked at the Land O Lakes Tourist Association (LOLTA). I was asked to attend a meeting with the publisher of the Tourist guide. The meeting was held at their home, as that is also where they run their business. It was an amazing morning of coversation over Michelle's homemade muffins and tea, mixed with wood stove smells. They are wonderful hosts and have a wealth of knowledge. These folks moved from their urban environs to a place much more removed.
They live in between Parham and Tamworth (45min north of Kingston) on a property filled with trees, ponds, rocks and wildlife they call "Sunflower Farm". Depending on the time of year you visit, you'll know exactly why they do. They have spent the last 25 years reducing their impact on the planet and work hard to share their knowledge through their books, DVDs, websites and workshops. Sunflower Fam is also entirely powered by the sun and the wind.
I asked Michelle if I could pick her brain about living in the country and living off the land. (not off the grid...that warrants a whole other interview!)
Describe where you live.
Michelle: 14 kms east of Tamworth on 150 acres of trees and ponds
Describe how you live.
We are self-employed, earning our living with a hodge podge of activities such as publishing books, writing articles, offering workshops, selling garlic and vegetables, etc. etc. etc.
Something that really intrigues me...how far away is your closest neighbour?
4 kms to the east of us
What is your favorite thing about living out in the country?
The peace & quiet.
Whats the least favorite thing?
The distance to things when we really need to go places.
Do you ever forage on your property? (If so, what?)
The only thing we forage is blackberries. We don’t trust ourselves to identify unsafe mushrooms and haven’t really found anything else.
(I'd love to have a peak around your place!!!)
Give me a brief history of your property:
In 1886 this property was deeded by Queen Victoria to the original owners. The house was built in 1888. We know an elderly man who was born in this house and he comes for a visit every summer.
What were your reasons for chosing the property?
We loved it. We loved the house, the land, the location and the price!
Do you feel more like pioneers or farmers (neither or both)?
We feel like pioneers in terms of living off the electrical grid.
Now tell me about that garden! How big IS it?
About ½ acre.
So, what do you do with all that food?
We eat it, we freeze it, we sell it and we give it away. Last summer for the very first time we set up a stand in Tamworth on Saturday mornings to sell our excess. This year we are going to run a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) where members will purchase a share of our bounty for a set price and receive a basket of food once a week during the growing season.
What is the weirdest thing you've ever grown?
Peanuts! And okra!
What is your favorite thing to grow?
I LOVE growing strawberries because they are one of my favourite things in the whole world…. There’s nothing like picking a strawberry, warmed by the sun, and popping it right into your mouth! I also love growing lettuce and tomatoes and all of the ingredients of a salad. I love being able to walk into my garden, grab the ingredients of a salad and making it and enjoying it.
(That's one of my favorite things too!)
What is it that makes you so excited about gardening?
One of the best things about growing our own food is knowing that we are doing so organically. We are so spoiled with such good quality produce over the summer months that it is very hard to buy anything at the grocery store during the off-season.
Who has taught you the most about gardening? (your gardening guru)
Without a doubt, my father was my gardening guru. In fact Cam dedicated his gardening book “The All You Can Eat Gardening Handbook” to my father since he was such a huge influence on both of us!
It's nice to see that kind of knowledge passing down through generations!
I've mentioned it before that your All You Can Eat book is one of my all-time favorites. (but it's worth mentioning again!)
Not only does Cam & Michelle run a publishing business, they also advertise their bed & breakfast ( http://www.cammather.com/off-grid-retreat/off-grid-retreat/accommodations ) at Sunflower Farm using as much of their own produce as possible, they offer seminars on independant and sustainable living ( http://www.cammather.com/off-grid-retreat/upcoming-workshops-at-sunflower-farm )
They also recently finished a new book called "Little House Off the Grid" (available on Amazon.com)
In amongst all that, Cam manages to publish a blog of his own hilarious brand of excitement.
I truly thank Michelle Mather from the bottom of my heart for sharing with me.
I look forward to seeing your adventures at Sunflower Farm and attending Cam's local workshops.