Since Michelle and I moved off the grid 16 years ago we have answered a lot of questions about how to do it. Eventually we saw the need for more complete answers so we published The Renewable Energy Handbook and a few other books about living independently and sustainably (which are available to order on the home page of this website.) The challenge with books though is that they are kind of static, and the information doesn’t always have the same impact as seeing it in action.

So how do you heat independently and not produce any extra carbon for the atmosphere? How many solar panels and batteries do you need to live a comfortable life? How much actual space would your gardens take up if you were going to grow a good chunk of your own food?

This is why each fall and spring we offer our Solar-Powered, Off-The-Grid, Zero-Carbon, All You Can Grow, Living Independently, Ready for Rough Times Workshop here at Sunflower Farm. It lets people see everything in action and get the real scoop on what it’s like living off the grid. What sacrifices do you make? What are your dirty little secrets about how you cheat sometimes? Do those chickens that you say are really part of your family sleep in the kitchen when the temperature drops below zero? Okay, I’ll answer that one, NO they do not.

We have refined the workshop over the years and they run very smoothly with less clutter. By that I mean when I started, I used a PowerPoint presentation in the living room just to give some context on why people might want to start making some changes. This had come from the fact that originally I had offered these workshops at colleges and felt I had to have PowerPoint, because, well, that’s just what you do. Even though it was early in the day and we had lots of coffee available, I noticed people starting to fade out right away. It probably didn’t help that the workshops are usually in November and the woodstove is still warm from the morning burn. I was used to people nodding off at about hour 5 in my college workshops. But this was brutal.

So I’ve scrapped the PowerPoints. We just get right into how we run this place. We go over each system in the house in terms of heat, power, hot water, pumping water, appliances, batteries, generators, etc. We tour each system, I give the spiel and then people ask questions. After lunch we tour the gardens while I give the spiel and people ask questions. And then after the afternoon break we discuss other issues related to all of this like fiat currencies, security and some stuff that always surprises me. I say that because at these workshops there are often a few quiet people. It seems like they’re thinking, “This Mather guy is completely full of crap.” But as the day progresses and we hit the afternoon discussion they ask the most amazing questions or share the most wonderful information and it’s like wow, where did that come from? It’s awesome!

People also seem to like meeting other people who have the same outlook on the world. It’s fun to watch strangers connect with each other. We’ll be over at the wind turbine talking about the pros and cons of installing a wind turbine and I’ll notice a little group over by the chicken coop intently discussing something. I think it’s great. If you aren’t going to put up a wind turbine you won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t act polite and nod at my lame wind turbine antics. Okay, they’re not lame, they are insanely funny. I believe I should have an off grid show on the Comedy Network.

All that said, if you’ve been toying with the idea of moving to the country, or going off the grid, or installing some renewable energy equipment, or growing more of your own food, or want to reduce your footprint on the planet, or you want to live more independently, or you want to see if you really can life a typical North American lifestyle producing all your own energy, then attending this workshop would be time well spent.

We have met some really wonderful people in our workshops. I see lots of people exchanging emails over lunch. Michelle makes awesome food. Great people come. Lots of information is shared. Lots of knowledge is gained. Lots of fun is made of Cam, it’s all good. Everyone seems to leave happy and then Michelle and I collapse from exhaustion.

We have one workshop organized for a group on November 1st but there are spaces left in it. Depending on interest we could also set up another date so if you’re interested send Michelle an email (m.d.mather at gmail dot com). Here’s the link: http://cammather.com/off-grid-retreat/upcoming-workshops-at-sunflower-farm/november-1-2014-workshop Be sure to check out comments from previous workshop participants here; http://cammather.com/off-grid-retreat/upcoming-workshops-at-sunflower-farm

Fall-2004-tour