The Existential Strangeness of Blogging

For years I’ve tried to figure out the meaning of the term “existentialism.” Every time I think I’ve just about got it, I lose it, but I use the word anyway. You sound soooo intellectual when you use it, even if you don’t understand it. I’ve never let my lack of understanding of a word act as a barrier to using it!

What I am trying to get at with the title of this blog is that I am often struck with the thought that blogging is a very strange thing to do. I realize it’s just another form of editorialism (which isn’t a real word but that doesn’t stop me from using it), which newspapers have been doing for centuries, but somehow this feels different. My blog/editorialism tends more towards the personal as opposed to journalistic editorials that focus more on current issues. Ultimately though it comes down to the writer’s perspectives on things, whether they be views held by the public at large or not.

My perspective doesn’t often align with the mainstream. We’ve eaten a plant-based diet for 24 years. When our daughters were unhappy and not challenged by the public school system we home-schooled them for 6 years until they wanted to return during their high school years. We have been environmentalists since the early ‘80s when it was becoming clear that human activity was having a negative impact on the climate. We moved off the grid a decade and a half ago to prove that we could lead a fairly low carbon life despite there being no manual on how to it. I am the provincial Green Party candidate for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington and while I’d love to be elected with 90% of the popular vote in my riding, I am realistic in my expectations. It is just important for the message to get out there.

Clearly my worldview is not mainstream, but we have a number of readers who are willing to listen to my rants regardless of their own viewpoints. I think I provide enough of a personal perspective about the ups and downs of country/off-grid life to keep people reading even if they disagree with my politics.

We began the blog 7 years ago with the sole purpose of driving traffic to our website www.aztext.com . We had hoped to sell a few books. As book sales decreased after the 2008 economic collapse we redirected the focus of our blog towards our workshops and programs we offered on www.cammather.com. This helps us publicize the many ways we use to attempt to generate an income. I’ve never tried to hide the reason that I write this blog but it didn’t seem to stop people from following it. We periodically slip in a subliminal sales message (BUY OUR BOOKS) but luckily people never catch us. The numbers have risen steadily and it helped when we started reposting our blogs on Mother Earth News where we contribute articles periodically.

But I will admit that this blogging thing is still kind of weird.

First off there’s the whole internet information/data accumulation/surveillance thing. Any thing you put out there in the ether world of the internet is out there for good. It’s hard to take anything back. I hate to admit it but there have been a number of blogs we’ve decided not to post just because they seemed too inflammatory or likely to draw negative attention. Without the legal department of a newspaper or media enterprise behind you I believe you have to be more careful. I’m kind of disappointed I’ve let this happen, but I have to be realistic in how much hassle I want in my life. If my views seem wimpy, I apologize. Trust me, I am way more opinionated on big issues that I usually let on in this blog. I have a huge respect for anyone who has the intestinal fortitude to speak up and expose the extent to which institutions are intruding on our privacy. I often think it’s time to really go “off the grid” as opposed to off the grid the way we are now.

Secondly there’s the weirdness of being recognized. I know I like to suggest from time to time that I resemble Brad Pitt, but I sure wouldn’t want his celebrity and lack of privacy. When you blog you put yourself out there. We are used to this through our books and magazine articles. People read our stuff and they feel like they know us. This is nice. I was in the grocery in town one day and the young woman in the bakery asked, “Are you Cam Mather?” She had read about us in Mother Earth News. This is a very cool way to meet people. I now have one more person to say hello to by name in town. When you walk around my village people will always say hi and ask how you are even if you’ve never met. It’s just much nicer to be able to say, “Hello (FILL IN THE PERSON’S NAME), how’s it going?”

There is a bit of downside to this though and it can be kind of disorienting. One day I was in the grocery store and she asked me how it was going with our electrical system after the lightning strike this summer. At first I couldn’t figure out how she’d even know about that. I hadn’t been going around town complaining about being hit by lightning. Then I realized, oh ya, I blogged about that. It’s very nice that people are concerned but it feels weird and I wonder if they know too much about me? Obviously I flip-flop on this constantly.

In one of our workshops this fall someone asked, “Where’s the pond you skate on in the winter?” You can tell I love skating on our pond and must go on endlessly about it, because it seemed important to her.

So there you have it. I continue to wrestle with this whole idea of putting myself out there. As we move away from book publishing and workshops to just running a CSA, writing blogs on a regular basis seems like a lot work for less potential payback.

I appreciate the great feedback we get. That’s very rewarding. But unfortunately technology has significantly reduced a writer’s ability to earn an income from writing. Newspapers are a shadow of their former selves. Fewer staff. Less content. Less advertising. We have chosen not to cover our website with advertising because unless you sell them yourself you don’t usually control the content, and I’ve been on websites with some crazy stuff being advertised that seemed kind of inappropriate.

So as we do from time to time, I’d like to point out the donation link on the right-hand side of this page. If you’d like to show your appreciation for this blog in a very tangible way, feel free to chip in whatever amount you’d like.  Michelle has also set up a Voluntary Subscription link on the site so that you can choose to donate a monthly amount. We are appreciative of those of you who have donated in the past!

I hope people enjoy following some of the things we’re trying to do here. Trying get our place completely zero-carbon. Trying to run a CSA on a limited amount of cleared land, which is relevant to people trying to figure out how much land you need to be self-sufficient. Trying to find a way to keep the small community near where we live viable, and vibrant. And then all the things that go along with off-grid country life. Trying to find a way to convince others to put less carbon into the atmosphere.

In the meantime now that I’ve had some downtime we have some blog posts in the cue, and we are into the absolute best time of the year! I love the holidays. We have tons of snow. The rink is awesome. The wind turbine is back up and working. The house is toasty warm with the firewood we harvest on the property. Our daughters and their guys are coming home for the holidays. I’m going to have a huge buzz on for the next two weeks, then go into the inevitable first week of January funk. But that’s two weeks away! In the meantime I plan on eating, drinking and being merry!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS to You All!

Cam & Michelle in Indian garbsmall


5 Responses to “The Existential Strangeness of Blogging”

  • Korin:

    You talked about me in your blog, teheeheee. Although, I do feel a little like a stalker. Ah well, see ya next time!

  • Musia:

    Cam

    I have a quick question to ask you – actually more of a little request – would you be able to point me to websites or sources of information on setting up solar power in Ottawa to feed into the grid as well as into batteries – we want to do this in 2014 – start using solar even though we are not in a rural setting

    Would very much appreciate any sources of info/retail suppliers and contacts re feeding into the grid – thanks in advance

    Musia B

  • Neil B. (Orleans):

    Happy Holidays to you Cam, Michelle and family!!

    Keep blogging, it is an inspiration for those of us who aren’t as far along as you are in the zero-carbon goal department.

    Abundant Blessings!

  • Hi Susan! Yes, our books are available on Kindle. Thank you for the wonderful review, by the way!

  • Susan:

    Eating and drinking and being merry is also on my to do list starting today. Wrapping and making up the menu for next weeks festivities and making hot butter rum mix,egg nog, and baking. I am looking forward to the down time after the holidays. Reading, shopping the seed catalogs, (even if I don’t purchase there is an enormous amount of info in there)and planning the next garden. Also some home improvement stuff to do and some dunging out of junk. Personally I love January. It’s the end of February and some of March that makes me antsy. Do you ever think about publishing your books on Amazon’s kindle?

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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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