Aztext Press

Life Off-the-Grid

Calling All Hippies

By Cam Mather

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long you know that I often quote song lyrics and how they relate to my life. My latest theme involved my wheat growing experience. In a recent blog I discussed how I processed the wheat that I had grown. As you might have imagined from reading that blog, I spent a lot of time separating the wheat from the chaff and as I was working on my wheat, the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young was playing in my head. I guess it’s fitting since this would have been a mandatory album in every hippy’s LP collection, if it were cool to actually own a possession, man. I think their album “Déjà vu” is brilliant. Every song is amazing. It includes Joni Mitchell’s epic song “Woodstock,” “Helpless,” “Our House” (is a very, very fine house) and the ultimate “Teach Your Children.” I can see half-naked unkempt kids running around communes eating raw carrots and milking goats whenever I hear this song.

I was 10 in 1970 when my dad (who had long sideburns and wore sporty polyester pants with white vinyl belts, made entirely of crude oil) was teaching a summer course to principals and he brought home a presentation that some AV department had put together. It included 4 slide projectors that were timed to a song, and included dozens of photos of kids at school. The song they used was the counter-culture CSN&Y song called “Teach Your Children,” which was a perfect song. Even though I was only 10 I can still remember watching this presentation projected on a wall with the projectors timed to the music and feeling like I taken some sort of hallucinogenic drug. This was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Decades before MTV would be broadcasting music videos, some techie guys in the AV room had seen the future and they were putting it together. No 3D, no Dolby 5.0 Sound, no High Definition, just a projector on a wall. Life was so simple.

I was a kid in the 60s and a teenager in the 70s and I know now what a blessed life I’ve had. As I a teenager I was into girls, cars, making money, collecting Mad Magazines and watching this crazy new landmark show breaking all the rules called “Saturday Night Live.” Nothing dark. Nothing apocalyptic. Just bright and sunny.

This album also includes the song “Helpless” in which Neil Young sings “There is a town in North Ontario…” where he went to a cottage as a kid. His cottage was near Omemee, near Peterborough where I had my first real job selling advertising for CKPT AM Radio. Peterborough is 1 hour from Toronto, and is NOT in Northern Ontario. Thunder Bay is Northern Ontario, Omemee is not. I always thought Neil Young should change that song, but I guess after 40 years that’s not going to happen.

Déjù vu also includes the song “Almost Cut My Hair.” What a great song. It’s so dramatic. The opening verse is “Almost cut my hair, Happened the just the other day, It’s getting’ kinda long… I feel like letting my freak flag fly…” Was this all kids in the 60’s had to worry about? Cutting their hair? For the love of god, was this as bad as it got? Sure, they wanted U.S. troops to get out of Vietnam, but they hadn’t heard of global climate change, the nuclear threat didn’t seem too strong, AIDs wasn’t around, oil was cheap, jobs were plentiful and we had just begun the great suburban adventure. Crazy man. Groovy times. Gotta keep my hair long, man.

The last verse is:

But when I get myself together

I’m gonna get back to that sunny southern weather

And I’ll find a place inside to laugh

Separate the wheat from the chaff

I feel like I owe it to someone”

“Separate the wheat from the chaff?” For decades I’ve never understood this lyric. Finally it took peak oil and my interest in how much energy goes into our food to figure this out. Separating the wheat from the chaff takes a lot of energy. It’s a big deal. Those combine harvesters are marvels of engineering. If farmers can’t get enough diesel for their combines, get ready to grow your hair long and start singing Crosby Stills Nash & Young songs about Woodstock, Teaching Your Children and  Cutting Your Hair, man. Peak oil sounds like some kinda cool deal man. So groovy man.

My attempts to separate the wheat from the chaff

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