Like Cycling Across the Country

Michelle’s Note: This post is a little later than usual. We usually post on Wednesdays. But as you read below, life is a bit of a blur right now and so this is the first chance I’ve had to edit and post this. No photos of our garden today but a lovely photo of one of our many sunflowers is below!

It’s always been a fantasy of mine to cycle across the country. I think it all started on our honeymoon when we took 2 months to drive across Canada and down the West Coast of the U.S. We saw lots of cyclists riding through the Rocky Mountains. I often said, “That looks so awesome!” but Michelle would reply, “You’re doing that on your own, or else I’m driving the support vehicle!” Come on! How uncool is it to have a support vehicle? If it’s cold and windy and wet you just need to suck it up and keep riding.

It would have been a big project involving lots of planning, prep work and getting into shape. But you know how it is. We got back from our honeymoon, we both got jobs, bought a house, got a mortgage, had some kids, and the next thing you know we’re too old to ride across Canada.

Recently as I drove in the countryside near my home I passed a man and a woman on bikes that were loaded with gear, and I thought, “Wow, what an adventure! What a test of endurance!”

And then I thought, forget that, you know what’s a test of endurance? Running an organic CSA! And starting it at the ripe old age of 53! You want to prove you’ve got stamina? Come try this for a week, or a few days. Or the spring, summer and fall.

Here’s what I have to accomplish every week right now. Pick 30 pints of blueberries. Pick 40 pounds of green beans and 40 pounds of yellow beans. Dig enough potatoes for 40 CSA members. On Tuesdays I gather up enough lettuce, cucumbers, beets, swiss chard, kale, peppers, zucchini, corn, turnips, and anything else that’s ready in the garden for about 20 of our members and then I pack it in boxes and drive it down to Napanee where I wait for a couple of hours for our members to pick it up. I do that all over again on Thursdays for our 20 or so Tamworth members. In my “spare time” I am processing the garlic that has been hanging to dry for a few weeks. I am digging and drying and trimming onions. I am watering and weeding and watering some more and then planting lettuces and spinach that won’t be ready until early fall.

And it’s awesome! And so much better than a bike ride because I’m feeding the members of our CSA organically- and sustainably-grown fruits and vegetables. And just like if I were in the midst of a cross-country cycling trip, I am tired all the time. Exhausted. There are moments of extreme energy, but mostly it’s just put one foot in front of the other and get out there and weed, or plant, or tie up tomatoes, or hill up potatoes … the work just never ends. And really, I’m only scratching the surface of the jobs that are out there needing to be done. Every day is an exercise in setting priorities of what MUST be done versus what I’d like to be done.

You think riding 100 km a day on a bicycle is tough? Ha! You think plowing into a headwind, uphill is a challenge? Puh-leez. Try and run a CSA with 40 members. And remember that it’s just me and Michelle doing all of this work. There are no employees, no interns and no volunteers.  Now that’s grueling. That’s a marathon every day. That’s a grind. That’s what really tests your metal. You want the truth about which is tougher? You can’t handle the truth!

I usually crash at the end of the day and our satellite TV company just gave us a bunch of new High Def channels, a couple of which show just amazing travel footage. One channel shows brilliant aerial footage of various cities and countries. Last week I spent an hour in Alabama! What a beautiful state! I’ve never been but I feel like I have now. Then the other night I spent an hour on the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. I will never travel to these places but I feel like I’ve been to them. It’s almost like I cycled through them since at the end of the day I am exhausted enough to feel as though I’ve ridden through the Rocky Mountains!

I think Michelle kind of got dragged into this “CSA marathon that feels like a cross-country cycle” without even realizing it. It just snuck up on her! And we’re doing it together. There’s no support vehicle for her to hide in here!


2 Responses to “Like Cycling Across the Country”

  • Shelley:

    I came across this quote in a book on existential psychotherapy that my husband was reading. “Growing food is an endeavour that is simply right beyond questioning.” Irvin D. Yalom

    Cam & Michelle your life is “simply right” and your life’s work admirable.

  • Sammie:

    Cam and Michelle,
    We would love for you to come to Alabama! Mountains in the northern part and beaches on the gulf.

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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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