Our Great American Neighbours

By Cam Mather

I miss my new American friends! Michelle and I had three amazing American couples visit us at Sunflower Farm this summer, and I miss them!

This is weird for me because I pride myself in being a bit of a “hermit.” When you move to a place where your nearest neighbors are 3 miles to the east and 5 to the west, it should be a bit of a sign to others that you aren’t desperate for human companionship. And I’m not. Well at least I didn’t think I was.

Having people come up this summer was a bit of a stretch for Michelle and me. We are set in our ways, in our own little groove, and aren’t that into regular meals and keeping an immaculately clean home. So we were kind of apprehensive about the whole process of having “strangers” here. We were excited about the new source of income from the renewable energy and independence retreat, and the extra work we could accomplish with the WWOOFers/HelpXers though, and so we were willing to give it a shot.

I have to admit that I was concerned about having Americans come to Sunflower Farm.   I know. Scary stuff! What to expect? Would they be big, loud, handgun toting, cowboy boot wearing, world dominating, win at all costs, greatest country in the world Americans?

Please remember that we’re Canadians. Quiet. Humble. Reserved… Canadians. We’re often rated near the top of the list of countries that the U.N. suggests are good countries to live in, but that makes us uncomfortable. We don’t like the publicity. We’d rather just live quietly in the background, knowing that if we cut off several of our fingers with the chainsaw, our universal healthcare system will sew them both back on.

It’s hard to really get a feel for people when you are making arrangements via email. Luckily none of their emails were in ALL UPPER CASE LIKE THEY WERE YELLING! So we weren’t quite sure what to expect.

As it turned out we were pleasantly, no, delightfully surprised! All of our American visitors were charming. They were polite, interesting, obviously hard working, articulate, worldly, fun, …. Just tell me when you want me to stop.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Why would I have expected anything less? I know. It’s a loaded question. But there are some stereotypes out there about Americans that paint them with a less than flattering brush. You know, the loud, ugly American. The gaudy plaid shorts and camera while on vacation. The meddling police officer of the world, putting their noses in other country’s affairs where they’re not welcome.

I don’t agree with a lot of American politics. But I don’t agree with a lot of Canadian politics either. And part of the reasons Canadians enjoy such a great standard of living is that we haven’t had to spend as much of our GDP on the military. Our American cousins do that. Heck, they’ve got 11 aircraft carriers. The most any other country has is just one. So why would we need one? Our big brother to the south will make sure no one picks on us.

What I do know is that Americans are great people and I had a great summer getting to know a few of them much better. From our blogs you know about Mike and Melissa from Philadelphia and Gwen and Dave from Syracuse who came to help in the garden and learn about renewable energy here. They are hard working, well adjusted young adults who were great to have around. We talked for hours about everything you can imagine and we laughed a lot. As I’ve learned as a frustrated comedian, you don’t need to change your material; you just need to change your audience. Michelle doesn’t even roll her eyes at my stuff anymore, but my new American friends knew how to laugh (mostly at me, but maybe some of the time with me.)

This weekend we watched the movie “The Blind Side” again. The first time I watched it I wasn’t really aware of where the story had taken place, but after we had visitors from Tennessee come up for a renewable energy retreat, I made the link right away that the movie takes place in Memphis, Tennessee. So it was like, wow, now I love Tennessee! And the woman Sandra Bullock plays in the movie, Leigh Anne Tuohy, well, I love her! She’s totally awesome! I thought people from Tennessee were awesome before, now I think they’re really awesome.

Our Tennessee guests were here for two days, but the day after they left I said to Michelle, “You know what’s weird, I really miss them.” That’s so unlike me. I like the solitude. I like only seeing one other person for days on end. But there I was, missing people I’d only just met and only spent two days with.

I guess this is representative of how sometimes you get a different perspective from the big picture and little picture. While you may not be enamored by another country’s foreign policy, that doesn’t mean that you can apply that same view to all of the people who live in that country. This certainly was my experience this summer.

I think Americans are great.

I hope we get more Americans visiting here in the future. It’s great to have such awesome neighbors to the south! Someday, maybe, I’ll get up the courage to get my passport updated so I can visit the U.S. and get to meet the whole darn country!

6 Responses to “Our Great American Neighbours”

  • Thanks Susan and Bruce. One of these days I’m going to cross that border!

    Thanks Cathy. I appreciate the feedback. And yes, I do call myself a hermit, but am still “out there” publicly to earn an income. I believe I like to point out my hyprocracy often in the blogs. I thought of your comment often as we sold garlic at the Verona Garlic Festival on the weekend. There were crowds and there I was. Luckily Michelle was the point person for selling.

    And thanks Amy. I’m really glad you liked the book. I wish you all the best with your 5 year plan.


  • Amy:

    Cam –
    I just spent the entire rainy Labor Day weekend reading your “Thriving During Challenging Times” and wanted to say thank you for such a terrific resource. My husband and I are renting now, and saving up for our 5 year plan to move to the country, and your book gave us a much-needed burst of renewed motivation and courage. Thanks for all of the great ideas!

  • Cathy:

    At first read, I was offended by your comments, then I had to consider the source. You, who claim to enjoy isolation as a farmer (“off the grid”), yet you take on public speaking, write books and in doing so commit to promoting and being a salesman to sell them, doing radio for your 15 minutes of fame to sell your self as a speaker and your books.

    It seems you are tethered to your computer too much and believe everything you read on the internet about Americans and the USA. No more bashing please.

    For someone who says they are a homebody, and likes his privacy, you sure open your property to the public in a variety of ways. You just don’t go over the imaginary line into the USA.

    Please don’t put us down to raise yourself up. You are more like us than different. Your blog readers are obligated to make money when we’d rather be self sufficent, off the grid, growing vegetables and animals. We are obligated to market our skills outside of our homes and commute to work, to generate money to pay bills, including medical. The real estate crash might make it more possible to buy 150 acres here now IF you have cash and verifiable employment because everywhere the value of property has dropped 40-60% and unemployment is more like 25-35%. But if you put down “farmer” as your occupation, you’ll never get a loan. It is a good thing you bought your hobby farm when you did and haven’t given up your day job as an author /speaker / publisher and B&B owner. Doesn’t reality suck?

    Someday when the world montary market crashes and the dollar is worthless, then we will go to a barter system. We might get paid in chickens, eggs, hay, vegetables, tools or guns. But until then money is hard to live without. FYI: Most farmers are omnivores and use their guns to slaughter their live stock. It is noisy but humane.

    Cheer up, it could be worse! You could be living in a USA city like us. It wasn’t my choice, I was born here. How ‘boot you?

  • We are not all gun toting, boot wearing, loud mouths. I think you may be thinking of that country in the south called Texas.:) Unfortunately it is human nature to notice the bad stuff and not the good stuff about anything. For instance, I could clean my house for days before a party and my sister (bless her heart) would only notice the goose poo that someone drug into the house on their shoe. The solution to that is to not clean the house much. It may surprise you but there are a lot of people in the states with the same views as Canadians. We’re just stuck here with these idiots! Any time you want to visit you just fire me an e-mail and I will clean the guest room and rake the goose poo in the yard.

  • I admire your willingness to reach out and connect with strangers. I realize it is partly motivated by self-interest, but what isn’t? I’m a hermit too; complete introvert, and my long-suffering family has had to adapt around that in order to have a social life. And you’re right about our wariness about Americans; the media makes them seem very odd, but people are just people. Your experiences have been all positive. I take it you’re planning to do more of these exchanges next summer? And then you’ll be able to point to these successes. It’s something to look forward to.


  • You have a standing invitation if you ever get near Las Vegas.

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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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