The All In One Independent Living/Preparation/Homesteading Workshop

By Cam Mather

On October 20th we will be hosting the “The Living Sustainably and Independently, Ready for Rough Times, Hands-On, Solar-Powered, All You Can Grow Workshop” again here at Sunflower Farm. I think the workshop gets better each year. Every year we take more steps towards independence and self-sufficiency and so we have more information to share each year.

One of the areas that we’ll be sharing information is on food production. There is nothing like growing food for 12 families for a season to give you an idea of just how much food you can squeeze out of a given amount of land.

Yes, we still purchase some of our food from the local grocery store, but it’s comforting to know that we could grow almost all of it if we had to. What boggles my mind though is how much time is involved with just harvesting it and storing it. And I’m not just talking about canning and freezing. Right now we’re busy filling up the root cellar. You have to be careful digging potatoes, making sure you don’t skewer too many of them. Once you get them in a wheelbarrow you have to sort them. Since we’ve finally had some wet weather you have to dry them a bit (out of the sun) and then sort them. I store the best in buckets in peat moss in the root cellar and put the ones with blemishes into boxes to use up this fall.

It seems I’ve spent hours this fall sorting onions. First it was for the CSA, now it’s the ones that I’ll be storing. I’ve had them drying on a rack in the garage, which is really just an old bedspring. After they’ve dried, I flake off any excess dried skin and make sure they are firm. The good ones go into onion bags that I hang up in the root cellar. The questionable ones go in boxes to be used up this fall. There’s going to be a lot of potatoes and onions eaten this fall at Sunflower Farm! We’ve been digging carrots and putting them in moist peat moss to last the winter. And the squash harvest was really big this year, so now we’re putting the best ones into the root cellar. Regardless of how nice they are they won’t last as well as some things, so we try and eat them up earlier, rather than later. If we aren’t successful at using them up, we’ll start discovering big white fluffy balls, formerly known as squash, in the root cellar.

The other thing I enjoy about presenting these workshops now is that we really have our act together in terms of our renewable energy setup. It’s taken 14 years but it works really well. We’ve minimized our propane consumption and the propane hot water tank hardly ever comes on during the year. It’s nice to have it for back up, but basically all our hot water is produced from renewable sources.

We also spend some time during the workshop discussing the financial aspects of independence. I see gold getting back up close to $1,800. Central banks are buying a lot of it. So what’s up with that? I’m always happy to share my perspectives but I find that the people who attend our workshop often have their own perspective on these questions. I think that’s why they’re here.

The thing Michelle and I have learned after presenting a number of these workshops now is to have a little less structured time and more time during breaks and lunch for people who have come to meet like-minded people and share their ideas. A lot of the workshop attendees have already read our books and know where we’re coming from. I think they like meeting others who haven’t taken the plunge to the degree that Michelle and I have and they enjoy getting a handle on other people’s perspectives on things. I know that’s one of the things many writers discuss as the key to a certain degree of happiness or contentedness in life, and that’s a feeling of community. Our workshops provide that to the people who come, even if it’s just for the day. You leave the workshop feeling “Hey, I’m not the only one thinking this way.”

Michelle and I find the workshops very motivating as well. It’s always nice to be reminded by people who live in more urban areas just what an awesome spot we have. It can be easy to forget just what an amazing place you live in when you experience it every day.

If you know of anyone who you think might be interested in a day immersed in sustainable and independent living, please forward this post to him or her. More specifics are available at

Here’s a shot of the fall harvest warehouse/staging area, formerly known as our garage.


8 Responses to “The All In One Independent Living/Preparation/Homesteading Workshop”

  • Hi Lorna. I don’t know where you are located, but here in Eastern Ontario, Cam hasn’t even started planting our garlic yet! So, yes, I think you have plenty of time!

  • Lorna:

    I’m insanely jealous! What bounty. We had hoped to have gardens galore this summer and fall, but our house-hunting took a lot longer than we expected. We are finally in, but not enough time (heat or sun) to even get a winter garden started. Next year!
    Although, do you think there is still time to plant some garlic for next year?

  • Sue Clinton:

    My husband and I attended the spring workshop and felt that it was definitely worthwhile!
    I am about to harvest the sweet potatoes that I got a few plants from Cam and Michelle on that day. It is so nice to learn from those who have been through the ropes and also talk to others who are more at the stage we are at. For those thinking about attending Cam and Michelle’s workshop, I would suggest they do!

  • Melanie Ann MacKenzie:

    Hi Cam & Michelle, It would be a lot of fun to attend the workshop to compare ideas with you both, alas, not this year. We are in the final charge to get the shell of our house closed in before winter. We are really hoping that we will be plastering the straw walls by then so that is out total focus right now. I must admit, that like you, we too had a great crop of squash and pumpkins this year. I have successfully stored them for about 4-5 months in past years. Cheers, Melanie

  • Cathy:

    Having a workshop should be easier and more fun than 9 months of gardening from cold frame to harvest with a CSA for a third of that time!

  • Your garage looks almost as crowded as mine except you have more food and I have more remodel junk (and food). This year was my third with the current garden and it produced the best so far. You are right about harvesting and storing taking so much time. I have been feeling overwhelmed lately. We too had a bumper crop of squash. Many more than we can eat of one particular variety. I am storing them anyway because I can share them with our chickens, geese, and ducks. They have already feasted on several that had bad spots. Green beans were the same. I pickled and froze and we ate until we can’t stand them but the beans just kept coming. Because I couldn’t keep up a lot of them got too big and tough. The biggest ones are drying for next years seed.(I planted heirloom and OP) the next biggest got blanched and chopped for the birds again. This helps with the feed bill which is supposed to be more this year. So far I haven’t seen it but others with larger livestock have. It also helps with the guilt at leaving anything in the garden! Would love to come to your workshop but it just isn’t in the check book this year. It is hard to find like minded people to have discussions with so you are on the right track. Have fun.

  • I am registered for the workshop and greatly looking forward to meeting you both as well as chatting with the other attendees. I am quite confident I will walk away with some new ideas and new inspirations for my off-grid, getting-more-sustainable-each-year home. Oh, and I’ve got this weird feeling that lunch will include something made from potatoes and onions 😉

  • Bruce:

    Best wishes to you. I hope one day to attend.

    That’s a lot of onions you have there, my friend. Looks like the onion crop was very good this year.

    I’m impressed that you were able to provide food for 12 families. I enjoyed reading your CSA posts. I’m having a difficult time making a real dent in what we eat, let alone having enough left over to feed others. My estimation of your work has gone up a few more notches!!

    Just put in my winter garden, at least the first phase of it. I don’t really get a season to rest from the gardening chores here, for which I’m thankful. Every season has its challenges and rewards. I hope you’ll be able to rest a bit during the winter and be ready to go next spring.

    Keep posting these updates. It’s reassuring to see what others are doing and that I’m not in this alone.

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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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