Aztext Press

Life Off-the-Grid

Sunflower Farm Stopover for Wayward Travelers

By Cam Mather

“Can I use your phone?”

This is an expression we’ve heard often here at Sunflower Farm. Most often it comes from a stranded motorist. Since we are the only home in a 10 km (7 mile) stretch of road between the Kouris and the Gorters, we are a destination for wayward travelers. If I had $5 for every time someone has stopped in because they are lost and needing directions, well, I would be writing this from my mansion. And, as I’ve commented on previously, we have also noticed how often people stop near our driveway to do any number of things. Even though there are long uninhabited stretches of road where people can;  a) switch drivers, b) check their trailer hitch, c) shoot a partridge, d) inspect their spare tire, or e) phone home… you name it, people prefer to do it within site of our gate. It seems to comfort them. People freak out in isolation.

Stranded motorists are the second most common type of person who shows up at our door. We’ve had hunters with vehicles stuck in the woods, people who have run out of gas, drivers with misbehaving vehicles …  it’s a long list. Last month a young couple limped as far as our driveway on a flat tire and then decided to come in and call for help from here. A few years ago a friend and her son arrived at 10:30 on a Sunday night in March after they had gone off the road after sliding on black ice. By the time I got them warmed up, went back to their vehicle for essentials, ran them home into town, and then chatted with the cop who came to investigate, it was about 2 a.m. before I got to bed.

One Sunday morning at 7 a.m. a young couple was dropped off at the end of our driveway after smashing their mini van into a rock cut nearby. After they called their parents who lived almost two hours away and everything got sorted out, it was after noon. So much for a leisurely Sunday morning spent in bed reading newspapers and drinking coffee. One day Michelle was on her way home from town and noticed a guy walking towards our place with a gas can. I was proactive, drove back with a full gas can and took him back to his car and helped him on his way. We now have an “emergency” gas can in the garage since this has happened so often.

We are always happy to oblige. It’s what you do in the country. With our falling income and the age of our vehicles I know it’s only a matter of time before I’m knocking on someone else’s door. So we make people feel at home and then help them get on their way.

But on a recent Friday night, after 14 years of living here, something changed.

As I was working outside around dusk, I heard voices on the road not far from us. Since it was deer hunting season, I assumed they were hunters. The voices sounded pretty happy so I assumed some guys from different camps had just met on the road. A while later I was outside and I heard them again. I heard laughter, so it seemed apparent to me that it wasn’t an emergency. Perhaps one of the tie downs on an ATV had come loose and they were fixing it.

About half an hour later I saw flashing lights and I was impressed that they’d managed to get a tow truck out here so quickly. Our phone system here at Sunflower Farm is cellular but it uses a special antenna and power booster to make it work. Most cell phones don’t work out here. I assumed someone must have gone into town to call or get the tow truck.

As Michelle and I were making dinner I could see the lights through the now leafless trees and it seemed to be going on much longer than one would expect. But again, since the voices sounded pretty chipper I wasn’t concerned. The flashing lights seemed to be a tow truck.

Here is my confession. One of the biggest reasons that I didn’t investigate is because it was… wait for it… “Pizza Night!” Yes, Friday night is Pizza Night at Sunflower Farm. This is a tradition that many families follow that I actually started decades ago when we lived in the city. Most people don’t know that, but it’s a fact. You can look it up on Wikipedia. As a card-carrying “pizzatarian” there is no night as special as Friday night. There’s been the odd Friday night when we’ve tried something else, but it throws off the rotation of the earth’s axis. It’s like there’s a disturbance in the force when I don’t have pizza on Friday night. Michelle used to have a running joke on Fridays where she’d innocently ask “What should we have for dinner tonight?” I never found it funny. I wasn’t laughing. It wasn’t going to happen.

Photo of pizza from Wikicommons.

Part of the problem is that Michelle makes the absolute best pizza on the planet. Michelle is an artist with dough and there is simply nothing like her pizza. I help with cutting up the toppings, and chopping up the frozen basil to sprinkle on top, but Michelle’s pizzas are the pinnacle of pizza perfection, and frankly consuming one of her pizzas on a Friday night can make even the crappiest week awesome!

Shortly after we started eating our pizza our neighbor Ken arrived to give us the scoop on the commotion. A woman from down the road had hit a large deer. I was hoping it was the small doe that has been eating my strawberry plants, but Ken said it was a large buck. Eventually the police had arrived because there was extensive damage to the car.

Can you imagine, living in the middle of the nowhere and hearing all that commotion, including flashing lights on the road, and not going to investigate? I sound like one of those apathetic urban dwellers that don’t get involved with a crime in progress. I’ve been rationalizing this in a million different ways, but there is no excuse. I was jaded by my obsession, nay, my addiction, to pizza. Going to investigate would have ended as it usually does, with me making small talk with a stranger for a few hours until help arrives. I simply didn’t want to tempt fate.

If there had been any sign of distress, if the voices had been anything but jovial, I would have investigated. If there hadn’t been 2 to 3 cars there the whole time, meaning one could go for help if it was required, I would have gone but I saw a number of headlights. Our lights were on. We know they would have come to our place if they had needed help. If I had sensed anyone in need of assistance, I would have been right there. I think.


OK, if we had been having kale and brussel sprouts for dinner, I would have been down there in a minute…. encouraging people to come back to the house. But it was pizza night. And I couldn’t drag myself away from the pizza.

Oh well, it won’t be long. There WILL be a next time.

Michelle’s Note: One of our Facebook friends requested my recipe for pizza. Below you’ll find a link to a PDF of a page from our family cookbook. I’ve shared this recipe with many people over the years and everyone loves how easy and delicious it is!

Pizza Recipe

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Don’t forget! Our new book “Little House Off the Grid” is now available! And we are offering FREE shipping within the U.S. and Canada (until Dec. 11.) Go here to read an excerpt and go to to order a copy (or two!)



  1. bruce mather [Sr.]

    Another good one! BWM

  2. Jean

    I’ve had the pizza, love it, wish I could come close to making pizza even half as delicious as Michelle’s…. and Cam, I don’t blame you one bit for not budging! With a Michelle pizza in the oven, I wouldn’t have left the house either!!!!!

    I just downloaded the recipe!!!!

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