Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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Mike & Melissa's Side of the Story

6/15/2011 7:59:14 AM

Tags: organic gardening, volunteer opportunities, learning, Cam Mather

Just before our HelpXers Mike & Melissa left for their next destination, they were kind enough to write a few words about their experience here at Sunflower Farm.

Guest Post by Mike & Melissa 

Summer Out of the City 

We just spent a wonderful week here on the Mather's Sunflower Farm. After discovering them (and reading what they do here) on a work exchange website we rightly assumed there would be plenty to learn and discuss as we worked. While both of us expected to be impressed by the solar panels and wind turbine that keep the farm working off-the-grid, we didn't realize how many different aspects of farming life in Canada we could experience in such a short time.

As city dwellers for the past few years, the only gardening we had attempted consisted of a couple of large, indoor tomato plants that (sadly) bore no fruit. Planting, weeding, and helping to care for the vegetable and fruit gardens proved to be much messier, but definitely (more) rewarding. By the end of the week, some of the seeds we had planted earlier were already sprouting!

Melissa particularly enjoyed learning about all the different ways that the vegetables could be planted with safeguards like toilet paper rolls, onions, and marigolds to distract pests from the crops she was planting. Meanwhile, Mike rose to the challenge of hauling and configuring large stones into a few useful structures around the farm (a rain barrel pedestal and a neat garden wall).

Throughout the week, we were consistently surprised and delighted. When a flash storm caught up with us unexpectedly while we were jogging (it had been sunny when we started!), we felt extremely lucky to learn that though it left most of the region without power, the Mathers could still turn on their solar powered satellite TV so that we could watch The Agenda on TVO (which coincidentally focused on energy for the entire week). On a slightly less dramatic note, Melissa later learned that she quite enjoyed chasing after and picking up chickens so that the ladies wouldn't run away into the woods while roaming free. Mike unearthed his biggest discoveries of the week when he shoveled manure to different locations around the farm, unearthing a number of snakes and a clutch of turtle eggs.

Overall, we couldn't believe how lucky we were to spend our first farm work exchange with Cam and Michelle. They were both incredibly welcoming, very instructive, and fed us extremely well! We can hardly believe that it was just over a week ago that we arrived to be quickly greeted by a prancing baby goat named Parker. We'll reminisce fondly on this experience and take more than a few lessons with us as we work towards our own sustainability goals.

four of us  

* * * * * * * 

Thanks Mike & Melissa! We loved having you here and as I walk around the gardens and the barn foundation, I am so grateful for how much you both accomplished!           ~ Michelle ~  

Photo by Cam & Michelle Mather. For more information about Cam Mather or his books please visit or

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