The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Blogger

By Cam Mather

I came up with this blog title and thought I’d better explain it. “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Loneliness_of_the_Long_Distance_Runner) is a book that I’ve never read, but which I often think about when I’m doing something solitary. Back when I lived in the city and needed exercise I would go running or cycling, and the title of this book spoke to me. I look back on those days now that I’ve got so much “real” stuff to do, and the thought of having to perform some activity in order to get exercise that really doesn’t accomplish anything is very foreign to me.

When I looked up the book I discovered that it was written in 1959, the year I was born! Cue the theme music from “The Twilight Zone”… ‘Do do do do, do do do do… According to “The Celestine Prophecy” it is important to recognize that coincidences may have deep meaning. So I’m using this coincidence as an excuse to buy a lottery ticket for tonight. Now if only my mom would come to me in a dream and give me the six winning numbers all would be well.

But I digress, as I often seem to do in these blogs. So I was thinking about how blogging is a very solitary thing, like long distance running. It’s just you and your train of thought, which in my case is terrifying. It’s just more of “The World According to Cam” which some of my family members like to mock me for. But some of them do read my blog and I think eventually they just sort of assume that since they know what’s going on in my life they don’t have to bother to communicate with me about what’s going on in their life. This is fine. I don’t mind the solitary life. But it can be a very one-way street.

This is why Michelle and I love the comments we get on our blogs. We read every one and we really, REALLY, appreciate everyone who responds, good or bad, and shares their perspective. Since Mother Earth News started reposting our blog our regular readership has gone up significantly, and while that’s great, it’s still the feedback we get from your comments, which make this blog in large part worthwhile, so please keep it up.

For people who take the time to post comments, we are very grateful. We also appreciate everyone who reads our blogs regularly.

I was also thinking about how blogging may be good for my state of mind. I read a study recently that said that writing is a good way to relieve stress for a lot of people. I think this is the case with me. When I blog about being overwhelmed with the garden or some other component of our off-grid lifestyle, we get comments from others going through the same thing or offering encouragement to stay the course and it really helps.

The other thing about writing is that I think it can really help you to appreciate your life. Michelle and I have finished writing our book “Little House Off The Grid – Our Family’s Journey to Self-Sufficiency.” Amazon has it listed already and they are taking pre-orders! We’d better get cracking!

We decided to chronicle our journey from our fairly typical suburban lifestyle to one of independence in the woods off the grid. And as our HelpXer Melissa pointed out, it’s a “Narrative Non-Fiction” which is very popular right now! I know I always read books like this when I was still living in the city and dreaming about moving to the country. My favorite TV show for years was “Northern Exposure” about a quirky village in Alaska and the lives of the people in it. Now I live near a village just like that called “Tamworth” and I know lots of wonderful people in town and you know, it’s pretty great. And of course, many of them know me. I’m that off-grid solar guy who dressed up as Super Solar Man for the Canada Day Parade and an LED-lit Xmas tree in the Santa Claus Parade. I think my most popular idea though was when I pulled a solar-powered bubble machine along the parade route. It’s like I’m trying to become a character on Northern Exposure!

As we work through the final edits of the book before we pass it off to be edited, I am reminded about what a fantastic journey this has been. There have been many highs and many lows, but all in all, it’s been a blast. And now that the systems are all working well and we “get” the whole energy thing, it is one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done in my life. Well, other than raising two fantastic daughters. Oh, and publishing “The Renewable Energy Handbook” which has been a huge motivator for thousands of people. Living off grid is really a dream come true.

One of the most important parts of the book is when we share the “lows” that we have experienced. We have had many “challenges” (see, I don’t call them problems, isn’t that positive!) that have had a pretty jarring impact on our lives. Communication, either via phone or internet has probably been one of the biggest, so it has not been a complete joy ride by any means. But the lows have just made the highs, higher. This is very much like my personality. Michelle is very even keeled, never too up or never too down. Somedays I can be bouncing off the walls with glee one minute and then ready to jump in front a train the next. It’s a testament to Michelle’s temperament that she’s been able to handle my personality for 30+ years.

One thing that I’ll say for a manic personality like mine is that those lows make the highs much better. And since my nearest neighbors are 4 miles away, I can come out of the office on a high and sing “I hope you had the time of your life” by Green Day at the top my lungs with no hesitance that someone will hear me. And I must say, on those days when I’m in one of those singing’ at the top of my lungs days, frankly I wouldn’t care if someone, or a crowd of people was listening. Pavarotti I am not. Happy I am. At least at that moment.

And that was the great thing about writing our new book. I was forced to go back and think about my time in suburbia and how badly I wanted out. And I thought about how many times since then I’ve climbed the small hill where our first wind turbine was and looked down at our house on a cold winter’s night. The house is brilliantly lit up inside with lights powered by the sun that shone that day and charged our batteries. The house is warm from the wood that I harvested sustainably from the property, and the root cellar and freezer are full of last summer’s harvest, and the bookcases are lined with books I’ve read or plan to read, and there is nowhere else on the planet I can possible imagine myself living. “Challenges” be banished from my consciousness. I am living where I want to, how I want, in a place I was meant to live. Tonight, at this moment, the universe has aligned itself perfectly.

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12 Responses to “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Blogger”

  • Lorna:

    Funny you mention Northern Exposure-the first time I read your blog, it reminded me of that show!

  • Thanks Deborah! Your place sounds amazing! I think 150 chickens would be a lot of work, but having just 4 of them is a lot of fun and we are enjoying them immensely, as you can tell from Cam’s blogs. Today I went out to throw some tomato scraps in to their pen for them. Henny is always the first to grab a piece and run and rather than finding their own, the others chase her! Hilarious! ~ Michelle ~

  • Deborah:

    I read your blogs all the time and actually look forward to seeing one in my email. I live in a small village in Nova Scotia called East Dover and have beenworking toward getting off grid since I bought the place 4 years ago. The house is very small, 500 sq ft with my 3 add on’s. I am on rock so don’t have a well, but I harvest the rain into 3-1000 litre tanks and filter it through a whole house filter. I just finished a kitchen reno where I installed a wood cooking range for heating and cooking as well as hot water. My counter is a drop leaf table with an RV sink installed. I use a Nature’s Head compost toilet and grow my herbs and vegetables. I have apple trees in my back field and plan to add peaches, cherries, pears and some nut trees. next year. You have me thinking seriously about chickens, but I do remember the work from when I had 150 of them back in the early 80’s. My goal is to be off grid within 3 to 4 years. Can’t wait to read your new book.

  • All great ideas Cathy! Yes, we will definitely be offering it as an ebook eventually. (We are having some challenges converting our books as they are all so full of photos and all such long books… the files are huge! Ours shouldn’t be too much of a problem though.) I like your idea of doing a podcast (or two) on the blog to give people a “taste” of the book!

  • Cathy:

    I like the cover on your new book and all the pictures on your blogg. Will it be available paperless in audio (using your voices of course)or digitally through Amazon’s on line download retrieval system? I have taken a vow of buying no more newspapers or paper magazine subscriptions (90%+ advertising), or new books if at all possible. I found you through my digital Mother Earth News subscription. Maybe you could read us parts of the book(a teaser)and put it on the blog, or put a teaser on u-tube.

  • Debbie:

    Thank you for your continuing contributions to this wonderful blog that you have created. I only found you about a month ago and greatly relish your humorous, yet honest reflections about your experience. Keep up the great work!

  • Hi Cam, I too enjoy being a subscriber to your blog by email and read them faithfully. I also like reading the comments by the other subscribers. Congratulations on your new book. I am always amazed by your output: you sure get through a lot.

    Cheers,
    gerrit

  • Tanya:

    I look forward to checking my email to see if there is a new blog from you! Your writing gives me something to daydream about while I toil away working in a factory sweating profusely!! Someday I hope my life will be as fulfilling as yours. Right now we have a small garden but in the coming years I hope to have loads of land and living independent of big business! Thanks for your inspiration!

  • ED:

    Cam, your doing fine and your really a credit to humanity. I love reading your blog, unfortunately I have less time now as my wife is working me in the garden. We started out the same way over 2o years ago and believe me I haven’t made the progress you have. There have never been any (true) regrets though, and trial and error are the best teacher. I do believe though one can learn quite a lot from people as yourself. Your sense of humor is priceless and Bless your wife.

  • anne:

    You are not alone, I too read your blog regularly. We also enjoy trying to minimize our ecological footprint. Last summer we built our strawbale home, we are not off grid, but have been able to minimize our energy usage significantly. Our total utilities bill winter and summer is about 75.00 a month, (we only have electricity, no gas or propane). Our house is energy efficient to start with, we heat our home, cook our food and heat all our domestic hot water with wood in the winter. In the summer, we have a 1950’s Wood cook stove we keep outside so we don’t heat up the house cooking our food, and have built an outdoor solar shower to minimise our hot water needs (I can send pictures of the solar shower if you like). We air dry our clothes, laundry in cold water, and hand wash our dishes. Some people don’t understand why we voluntarily live this way, it’s nice to know some people do understand. Our philosophy is we’d rather work a little harder here at home doing things manually, reducing our footprint than work longer hours for someone else to make enough money to pay for the appliances and energy to run them. We’re also Ontarioan’s like you, (Muskoka Area). Keep up the good work neighbor!

  • I know exactly what you mean about getting comments. You do all this writing and think what the heck am I doing this for? No one is reading it. I must be nuts! Last winter I got discouraged and didn’t post for a good month until someone finally gave me a nudge and asked where the heck I went. That got me started again. I read your blog every time it comes across my e-mail. My hubby and I dream of the day we can build our own off grid home (yes we have your book)but for now we live on 4 acres with our two girls, a dog, two cats, 33 chickens, 4 ducks, and 4 Sebastapol geese. And a garden of course. If you are interested you can see it and my blog at http://www.welcometothehenhouse.blogspot.com Some of the stuff is funny-at least to me. Keep writing. I’ll keep reading.

  • rita:

    Perhaps you were busy but I did comment on the gangway door when you first blogged about building your chicken coop. I haven’t commented since, thinking that perhaps you weren’t particularly interested in suggestions. I do read your blog and am a subscriber. When I get my Google Reader list, yours in one of the ones I will read first. I loved Norther Exposure too for their ability to be appreciated/tolerated for exactly who they were.

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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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