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Living and Working Off-Grid
Natural Life Editor Wendy Priesnitz talks to Cam and Michelle Mather

Cam and Michelle MatherCam and Michelle are partners in Aztext Press, which publishes books and multimedia materials about renewable energy and sustainable living. They operate their business from an off-grid home on the family’s Sunflower Farm in rural eastern Ontario.

NL: First of all, tell me about the off-grid home you’ve lived in for the past decade or so.

Cam: The home was built in 1888, and renovated by the previous owners. It’s located on 150 acres surrounded by lakes and bush north of Kingston, Ontario. We also have a guest house the previous owners built, which houses our office, a garage and several extra bedrooms. Ninety percent of our electricity comes from our solar panels, five percent from the wind and five percent from our gasoline generator that we run in months with little sun or wind, like November and December.

Michelle: Despite being a century-old farmhouse and off the grid, we have all of the conveniences of a modern home, including satellite Internet and a satellite dish for our TV. In that sense, our home is a wonderful blend of old, traditional styling with modern sensibilities.

NL: Why, how and when did you become interested in renewable energy?

Cam: The house is about $150,000 from the nearest utility pole, so the decision to go with renewable energy was an economic one! As our family became more environmentally aware, it was a logical progression to look at where our energy came from. We had already reduced our garbage to one can every eight weeks for our family of four, walked and cycled as much as possible, ate a vegetarian diet from as many local sources as we could, and started looking at the impact of electricity generation. Ontario’s power is still 25 percent coal that has horrible implications for greenhouse gases, and the 50 percent of the electricity produced by nuclear power is leaving a legacy of waste for future generations that we fundamentally disagree with.

NL: Was moving to the country a big step for you and your family? Mathers with solar tracker

Michelle: Yes, it was an enormous step! Moving away from friends and family and the support system that they provided was scary. We were home- schooling our two daughters at that point and we left behind a wonderful network of other homeschooling families. Also, we were accustomed to being able to walk to a grocery store, the library and other necessities. Now our nearest neighbor is four kilometers away (and a long-distance phone call!). When we first moved here, our closest grocery store was a half-hour drive away. (Luckily one has opened up in our village, 13 kilometers away.)

Cam: It was terrifying. We were moving three hours from the customers who supported our electronic publishing business, to a place that was powered by the sun and wind....

This article was published in 2008 in Natural Life Magazine.


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