Life in Real Time and the Sh*tstorm Survival Workshop

This is a series of unrelated, disjointed thoughts, which is only fitting since this is exactly how my brain works.

First off, our chickens.

It’s March 28th but in my part of Ontario we still have 2 feet of snow. Michelle and I are sick of snow, but so are the chickens. Once they’re finished laying at about 11 am we open their gate. In nicer weather they wander throughout the property scratching and dust bathing. This winter, not so much. They don’t bother. There is nowhere outside that isn’t covered in 2 feet of hard crusty snow. They are suffering from SAD. Or perhaps “CAD – Chicken Affective Disorder.” But lately with the weather slightly warmer (-5°C rather than -20°C) they are now seeking out anything that resembles soil. In this photo they are in the wood shed. They create huge clouds of dust as they scratch away at the dirt and then snuggle down into the little potholes that they make. They wriggle into the dirt, use their feet to throw dirt all over themselves and just hang out. Afterwards I twist my ankle in the holes they leave behind if I don’t remember to rake them flat.

chickens-in-the-woodshed

Here’s a chicken expecting to be taken on a ride in the sled. Really Henrietta? You want a ride?

chicken-on-a-sled

Here’s a picture of Jasper the Wonder Dog chasing a stick. With the warming sun during the day then below freezing temperatures at night Jasper can stay on top of the snow and he tears the place up chasing some maple sticks I made for him.

Jasper-with-stick

stick-chomping

Okay so now that I’ve lulled you into a temporary moment of distraction thinking that “well, at least there isn’t that much snow where I live,” here is a completely blatant commercial pitch.

On Saturday May 3rd we are offering our “Living Sustainably and Independently, Ready for Rough Times, Hands-On, Solar-Powered, All You Can Grow” workshop. This is an awesome workshop if I can be completely unbiased as the person who is offering it. I consider this the “Sh*tstorm Survival Workshop. If you read my blog and worry about societal collapse or climate change or any of the other challenges we face, this workshop is the antidote! It’s so much fun and so practical.

Here’s my theme for the workshop; If we closed our gate and no one came in and no one went out, our life wouldn’t change at all for 6 months. Well, we’d get a brutal caffeine withdrawal headache once the coffee runs out, but apart from that the lights would stay on, the fridge and freezer would keep working, the toilets would still flush, the water would flow, we’d be warm, and we’d eat well. We’re not obsessive about being self-sufficient, we just wanted to make our own energy and control our food supply. It’s easy. It’s cool. We share that in the workshop. And every time we offer this workshop, a group of really neat people comes and we serve great food and people meet other great people and share their perspectives and I end up with a huge buzz on at the end of the day. So there you have it, nothing subliminal there. Please come! Or if you know of someone else who might be interested, send him or her this link;

http://cammather.com/off-grid-retreat/upcoming-workshops-at-sunflower-farm/may-3-2014

On another unrelated note, we’ve had a few university professors come to visit us, to study us. We are like those monkeys in the labs where you see the people in white lab coats studying them. We are okay with this. I am on my best behavior on those days. (See this post for more of the story)

Last summer a professor came from The University of Guelph. He was studying the use of high speed internet in rural communities. When we installed our satellite internet we were one of our provider’s first customers. The equipment cost us more than $3,000 to have installed and it cost us about $200/month for hopelessly slow speed.

Fast forward to today and someone signing up now would pay about $50/month for insanely fast internet with no equipment costs. (We early adopters always pay the price!) Anyway, this prof is studying the effects of an Eastern Ontario program that subsidizes the cost of internet infrastructure allowing residents to enjoy high speed at a much lower cost. He wanted to know how high speed had affected our business. And yes, the new satellite we’re on allows us to SKYPE with our daughters and watch Netflix. It’s pretty great! Oh, and it helps with business too!

Recently this professor got back in touch with us and asked me to join him on a panel to discuss this topic. It’s at Queen’s University and I guess they decided it would be nice to hear from someone who actually lives in a rural environment and uses the equipment, to balance out the table full of academics that have been studying the issues. After I had agreed to participate, one of the organizers emailed me and asked me for my “title.” Since it is the Queen’s University of Business organizing the event I wanted to sound important, so I said “Publisher, Aztext Press” which is true, because we still sell some books. Then I added “Owner/Farmer, Sunflower Farm CSA.” I thought “farmer” would be scary to the guys in suits! So should I wear overalls or a suit to the conference?

Anyway I responded to the email and then I got distracted. About an hour later I got back to thinking about the conference and wanted to see what time I’d be presenting. So I went online to the conference agenda.

http://business.queensu.ca/centres/monieson/events/Economic_Revitalization_2014/agenda.php#Agenda

And low and behold the title description that I had just sent was already on the agenda! After an hour? Come on! How is that possible? What a crazy world we live in. A decade ago if you organized a conference you’d need 3 or 6 months warning to get the speakers together so you had time to get the stuff to the printers to print the agendas and mail them to the people attending.

Life in real time. It’s quite bizarre these days. Sometimes you just want to stop the ride and get off. The pace of technology does not affect the vegetables I grow in my garden. They grow at the same speed every year, dependent on the temperature, moisture, pests, and the love and affection provided by the farmer. I side with the vegetables! They’re more my speed. But humans still impress me all the time!

2 Responses to “Life in Real Time and the Sh*tstorm Survival Workshop”

  • Neil:

    My first life-in-real-time “aha” moment was several years ago I had bought a computer from Dell (back when people did that and Dell was thriving) and was eagerly awaiting delivery. I checked the order status online and it showed “out for delivery” and just a few minutes later the doorbell rang. “What a coincidence,” I said to the FexEx guy while signing for the shipment. After I shut the door I looked at the web page on my computer and it said “Item Delivered”. At once, both impressive and scary. Nowadays it’s about delivery-within-hours, drones and whatnot. Good grief. Can’t we find something more useful to spend R&D money on?!

  • Neil B. (Orleans):

    “CAD – Chicken Affective Disorder”, I burst out laughing and I am at work. Very funny Cam!!!

    Good luck at your workshop and being a panel member at Queen’s.

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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