The Small Pleasures and Infinite Miracles of (Modern Day) Country Living

Living off the electricity grid gives you get a unique perspective on things. Energy. Independence. Luxuries. Miracles.

Even after 17 years of living this way I find I’m still amazed at the wonder of the everyday and mundane things that make our lives so easy. I never appreciated them in the city. They were just there. But once I was involved in their creation I got a unique perspective, kind of like when you were a kid and you learned some amazing new mind blowing snippet of knowledge.

Michelle and I have come to have an attitude of gratitude in our lives. I’ve talked about it in my books, but one of things most associated with ‘happiness’ in people is gratitude. I am grateful to have been born where, and when I was, and I’m grateful for the infinite wonders modern life provides. And I won’t even go to smart phones and the interweb. Nope. Because you are much less likely to enjoy such technology if you don’t first have a toilet the flushes.

So here, represented pictorially are some of the things that I marvel at daily. (Or if I were Oprah … or Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, I would sing them to the tune of “My Favorite Things.”)

water faucet

Running water. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get water flowing out of a tap? You drill a well, put down a pump, it pushes the water up into a pressure tank, the water then flows through pipes throughout your house, and it comes out of that tap, under pressure, whenever you turn on the tap. The wonders never cease! I’m not just making this up, I marvel every time I turn that miraculous tap on. Wherever you live, every time you turn on a tap you should a say little thank you for the miracle that is running water. (Particularly if it is clean running water!)


light switchsmall

Electricity. I produce all of my own electricity from the sun and wind. Seventeen years ago solar panels were very expensive and Michelle and I spent a lot of money to purchase the various components of the system that powers our home so very efficiently. And every day I walk out to the battery room and see the glowing lights and hear the hum of inverters and I am awe struck with the wonder of it all. Making electricity is hard. And it’s expensive. “Grid Dwellers” as we call them, really have no concept of what’s involved, so they spend a lot of their own energy complaining about their electricity bills. If you don’t like your bill, cut the cord and try generating the electricity yourself. You’ll quickly find yourself telling utility workers that you see on the street how grateful you are for this amazing service they provide. A light switch or electrical outlet with an appliance plugged is a truly miraculous thing.



Firewood. This piece of wood came from a tree that grew on our property. It used photosynthesis to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and released oxygen back and it sequestered that carbon in its woody mass. And when I burn this wood it releases only the carbon it absorbed, so it is carbon neutral. But best of all, it will fill our home with wonderful, convective, bone warming radiant joyful heat that makes our northern winters bearable. By March I’m getting tired of stoking our woodstove, but I never lose the wonder at this incredible way to heat our home that our species has been using since we starting walking on two feet.

hot watersmall


Hot running water. No, it’s not the water one again, it’s hot water! Getting water out of a tap is hard enough, making it hot is ridiculously hard. Now if you have a natural gas pipe coming to your house it seems easy enough. But when you try and make it yourself, and you try and make it in an atmosphere-sparing carbon neutral way, it’s just a monumental challenge. Our solar domestic hot water heater is a thing of beauty and every time I wash my hands in hot water I am grateful to live in such a wondrous time.



Hash Brown Potatoes. These are potatoes that I grew, that I stored in our root cellar last fall, being cooked on a woodstove powered by wood I cut. They will give me the energy I need to cut more firewood for next winter. And they are insanely tasty. Seems pretty much like a cool closed loop to me.


scrambled eggs small

Scrambled Eggs. These are that scrambled eggs produced by our happy chickens. We feed them and give them warm water and treats all winter and they convert grains to amazing animal protein that will also power me to take on the day. And the eggs taste awesome. And the manure and straw I clean out of their coop is just the perfect supplement for our sandy soils. Oh how I love my chickens. And yes, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. (And no, they are not green eggs. I like to add some chopped spinach to my scrambled eggs.)



Oranges. And yes, we do have some luxuries in our life. I’m 55 and when I was a kid, getting a huge navel orange in my stocking at Christmas was a big deal, because we didn’t eat much fruit in the winter. Apparently there weren’t as many diesel trucks bringing this stuff to the north back then. So when I eat an orange I am in awe to live in a time when such unbelievable luxuries are available to us every day. I live like a king.

Life can be a very wondrous thing. I am truly grateful.

9 Responses to “The Small Pleasures and Infinite Miracles of (Modern Day) Country Living”

  • In these times of species and planet destruction, it’s so uplifting to read such a thoughtful and positive post Cam which leads inevitably to one other thing we can be thankful for… a grateful heart!

  • Great post….I agree about being appreciative. It makes life amazing and wonderous, even small things. I try to think of things I appreciate before bed each night, it’s a great way to fall asleep:}

  • Brian:

    Thanks Michelle…yes I remember that post from before. Thanks for the refresher. My brother has a wood stove in his house similar to yours…he tapped 3 trees with buckets and boils it down on the woodstove. I thought maybe you guys did the same thing. 🙂

  • Hi Brian! No, we don’t make maple syrup here, partially because we don’t have a huge number of accessible maples, but mostly because our neighbours do such a wonderful job of making syrup. We’ve written about their operation a few times, and here is a post I wrote about my annual maple-scented spa!

  • Going through the ‘not have’ times now while we work at building our off-grid home. Winter in an office trailer is tough but we put a woodstove in and it’s been amazing. Getting used to the outhouse fine and we haul in water weekly. Looking forward to building a home with some comforts built in!

  • Catherine:

    The poor folks who have never done without the flushing toilet, running hot and cold water, or natural gas heat! It is so hard to truly appreciate the things you have unless you’ve done without them. I remember as a child, heating the iron on the kerosene stove in the summer and on the pot-bellied stove in the winter. Running out to the outhouse in the dead of winter was no easy or pleasant task.
    You’ve done such a great job Cam and Michelle and I admire your spirit and pluck. Great blessings to you both!

  • Brian:

    All of a sudden I’m hungry. 🙂

    I was wondering…do you guys make maple syrup?

  • I could not agree with you more. Like you and Michelle, my hubby Frank and I are off the grid, in the country. We lived here for two years without a well, getting our water from neighbours. Believe me, I know the value of running water AND a flush toilet. When you have lived with only an outhouse for two years, oh boy, do you value a flush toilet. And with regards to heat, the first winter we were in the house we did not have attic insulation for months. We would sit huddled beside the roaring woodstove, still cold and we all lost weight until we finally got the attic insulated. I feel that we are truly blessed to have what we have not. Great post.
    Cheers, Melanie

  • Gerrit:

    Wonderful post, Cam! Cold, sunny day in southern Ontario today. Your panels will be making lots of electricity. Cheers to you both.

Subscribe to this Blog!
To receive a notification whenever a new post is added, please provide your email address!
Do you enjoy this blog? Why not show your appreciation with a donation? Big or small, we are grateful for them all!
Find Us on YouTube!
Do You Shop at Amazon?
If you use this link to access the amazon website, we will earn a very small commission on anything that you purchase. (For, use this link first and then link through to the Canadian site from here.)
For information about upcoming workshops at Sunflower Farm please use the pull-down Workshop tab above. Hope to see you soon!
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.
Posts from the Past
Mother Earth News
Many of you found this blog through our writing on Mother Earth News. Use this link to subscribe to the magazine and I will receive a small commission, which helps me to pay for this site! Thanks! Here's the link to use;