Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
My picture is in the dictionary! It’s on page 1,018 under the listing for the word “misanthrope - one who dislikes, distrusts, or has contempt for the human species.” My picture is there and everything! OK, so maybe that’s a bit extreme, and I would probably be better described as “curmudgeonly” rather than misanthropic, but let’s face it - I live 4 miles from the nearest human being for a reason. It was no accident that I ended up “far from the maddening crowd.” The crowd maddens me, so it’s best to stay away.
On the rare occasions when we head down to the city, despite my best intentions I will quickly begin to get cranky and Michelle will say, “OK, you’re shopped out. Time to go home.” It’s more like I’m “City’d out”. I don’t even like to watch New Years Eve celebrations with all those crowds - I start to hyperventilate even in the comfort of my own home!
A couple of weeks ago I got a call from the local economic development office asking if they could bring some high school students up for a short visit to learn about Aztext Press. They were going to be touring a number of rural businesses. In a momentary lapse of sanity, I agreed to the visit. Ever say yes to something and within seconds regret it? But by then it’s too late and the wheels are in motion and there’s nothing you can do to stop the momentum.
Originally there were supposed to be two busloads of students, arriving in shifts, but on the actual day of the trip the students were able to fit into one bus. After providing a quick introduction in the kitchen (otherwise known as the head office of “Aztext Press”) I invited them in to the living room. I hooked my laptop up to the TV and gave them an overview of the software that we use to produce the books and videos, and our websites and what we do to generate revenue. I think it was a bit difficult for them to grasp that this little off-grid homestead is home to a company that publishes the best selling book on renewable energy in North America. I showed them the 3 editions that “The Renewable Energy Handbook” has gone through since we first published it in 2003 and how we market it on-line.
I also gave them a tour of the battery/power room and I forced them to walk through the slushy snow to stand in front of the solar panels for the mandatory “in front of the solar panel photo.” It was supposed to have been a 15-minute visit but I went over my allotted time and it was 20 minutes before they were climbing back on to the school bus. I breathed a sigh of relief. I could stop hyperventilating. The people were gone. Isolation washed back over me.
As much as I regretted agreeing to this visit, as so often happens, providing these visitors with a glimpse into our lives was actually beneficial to me. I realized as I went through our history of moving off the grid, publishing the first book as a passion and a hobby and the gradual metamorphosis into our full time occupation, just how great it is to live the way we do. Our book sales are suffering because of the on-going great recession in the U.S. but people still love our books. And we are grateful to everyone who buys them.
Running our business off the electricity grid has presented many challenges over the years, but we’ve been able to deal with all of them. Technology is usually the solution, from our phone system to our internet connection. We have a satellite dish that plugs us into the matrix even though our nearest utility pole is 4 miles away. What a miracle!
I can sit here in my office and gaze out at the forest outside my window and sell books throughout North America. I can admire my wind turbine and solar panels and realize that I live a typical North American lifestyle without anyone else burning coal on my behalf to generate the electricity I’d need to run all these marvelous machines.
When I lived in the city it was much easier to make money. There were more customers for my electronic publishing service to tap into. It’s harder do that out here in the bush, especially when you are as adverse as I am to driving to a city to try and get new customers.
Whenever I do talks and people buy books from me I always make a point of thanking them. It’s how I earn my livelihood. To everyone reading this who has bought our books, thank you. I really appreciate your support. I’m saying this because I am grateful. We will continue to try and spread the good word. To anyone reading this who’s considering buying the books I will add that I would greatly appreciate it if you did and I’m confident you’ll be pleased. Since day one people have raved about our books and that means the world to us. We are grateful to know that our books have affected our readers in positive ways and they have learned things to improve their lives.
If you have a busload of people who want to come and check our place out, please hold off for a few months. It will take me some time to recover from this latest crowd of visitors. When you do come, bring cash. I’m going to try and sell you books! (And in the right season I’ll be pushing my organically grown garlic on you too!)
Photos by Michelle Mather.