Cheap, Solar-Powered Haircuts and Eating My Own Masterpieces

Reader Contribution by Cam Mather
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Back when we lived in the city and had a
real income I used to get my hair cut by “Tony” at his shop. Tony was a
great guy and he and his brother Dominic had a good little business
going. By the time I left Burlington my haircuts were costing me $25. I
didn’t mind paying it. Tony had a family and living is more expensive in
cities, and he always offered me his homemade wine. Of course I never
drank it, so I guess I should have asked for a discount.

When we
moved to Tamworth I started going to “Karen’s Country Cutz”. Karen did a
fabulous job on my hair and she charged $8. No really, eight dollars!
But then there was a fire in the store next to hers on the main street
of Tamworth and there was some damage to her place. Eventually she
started working from her cousin’s home which is about 20 minutes south
of town and working fewer hours and it was getting harder and harder to
make an appointment with her. So I came up with the brilliant idea of
asking Michelle to cut my hair.

It wouldn’t be the first time that
Michelle had attempted to cut my hair. She had taken a few shots at it
years ago when we bought one of those hair clipper sets when we were in
“pay off the mortgage” mode. We actually have some video of our
daughters when they were very young squealing with delight when Michelle
had one of those “oops” moments. And really, what one word do you NOT
want to hear when someone’s cutting your hair? Because there’s really no
turning back. Not at least with my hair, which is short. I still
remember one of my customers in the city teasing me mercilessly about
the bald spots I acquired during one of Michelle’s haircuts.

was willing to give it another shot so during a few of my haircuts with
Karen I asked her to coach Michelle on how to cut my hair. I certainly
didn’t expect Michelle to be as good as Karen, who is a trained
professional, but just in the ballpark was all I was after.

big challenge is that once Michelle gets those shears in her hand she
had a tendency to make like every movie you’ve ever seen where someone
joins the military and they have their heads shaved. She’d just start at
the top front and start blasting to the back. So Karen showed her how
to cut up on the sides and back, and then do that thing where she pulls
the hair on top up between her fingers and then cuts it with scissors.

now Michelle is giving me great haircuts! And I’ve gone from spending
$25 to $10 (I always tipped Karen) to spending zip! And I don’t have to
drive anywhere! And those buzzing shears are solar-powered like every
other appliance in our house!

It’s great that I hardly leave the
house these days so having a fancy haircut is no big deal anymore, but
it’s nice to know I can get a great cut anytime I want. And it’s FREE.
Every time we’ve put up another solar panel we’ve reduced how much
propane we need to buy, on our way to our goal of zero. Every potato
that goes into the root cellar in the fall is another trip to a grocery
store we don’t have to make. Any time we find another way to not spend
money it’s like finding a $20 bill in your pocket, only you keep finding
it every month… and it’s a great feeling!

* * * * *

On a completely unrelated subject I want to show you the earrings that our HelpXer Melissa
from Philadelphia gave to Michelle. They are tiny books, and there’s
actually paper and a cover and they’re properly, professionally bound!
Melissa specialized in book binding when she did her Masters of Fine
Arts and now she makes these tiny books. They are very cool. Melissa has
just opened an etsy shop selling her beautiful earrings at

miniature books would look great on Michelle’s miniature shelf. My
mother gave the shelf to Michelle years ago and Michelle has managed to
fill it up. The shelf is actually an old lead type drawer in which each
section would have had a font in a specific size for the production of
printed materials, back when printing was done slowly, on a press, where
the type was handset and the people setting the type went mad from lead

daughters were also into miniature stuff, and they spent hours crafting
amazing things out of polymer clay. Our friend Joe Ollman used to
produce little books at “WAG PRESS”
The books were about 4″x 4″ square and drawn meticulously by Joe, then
printed and hand bound. He charged some crazy price like $2, which
probably didn’t cover his costs, but he wasn’t in it for the money. I
guess some artists aspire to a higher cause. I don’t get art, but I
loved Joe’s books, especially the little drawings he had in the lower
corner so that if you flicked the pages it looked like a cartoon because
the image on each page changed a tiny amount so there was perceived

I think at this point in history many people who grow food
on a small-scale share this same essence of a higher level of purpose
in doing it. Sorry to drone on about my blueberry bushes, but really, I
spent $200 on bushes this year and it will take me, what, a decade
before they’re paid back? What sense does that make? It’d be way better
to just stock up when the commercial ones come to market. And in the
winter, buy the ones flown in from Chile.

When I present one of my
gardening workshops, I end it with a series of photos I’ve taken over
the years of some of the best vegetables and fruits I’ve grown. They are
blemish-free, gorgeous, untouched by chemicals, organic, artistic
masterpieces. As I scroll through them I point out that I can’t paint,
(i.e. art, as opposed to rooms) I can’t draw, I can’t sculpt, I really
have no artistic abilities whatsoever. But every year I create these
amazing masterpieces. Unfortunately they don’t last for long, unlike
most other masterpieces. My masterpieces get eaten. And really, what
else is there? We need to eat to survive. Eating healthy, local,
organic, beautiful food is the ultimate expression of art appreciation.
I’m off to the strawberry patch to admire my strawberries. They are the
most beautiful thing I ever seen! Well, since my record crop of
raspberries last year. Oh, and the broccoli from the year before. And

Photos by Cam Mather and Melissa Jacobson

For more information about Cam Mather or his books, please visit or