Aztext Press

Life Off-the-Grid

Not the Sharpest Tool in the Shed

By Cam Mather

So check out this photo! An alien spaceship landed in our front yard! No really! What else could explain a big burnt spot like that? And it was a rectangular space ship, not your run of the mill flying saucer either.

All right, all right, I lied. That big burnt patch, well that was from me experimenting with a slash and burn technique. When the zombie apocalypse comes I want to be able to act like a retreating army, slashing and burning everything as I flee, leaving my enemy with nothing for cover and nothing to eat. No really, that’s what was happening!

Okay, here’s the real story. My friend Ian had a big sheet of used greenhouse plastic that he didn’t need any more and so he offered it to me. My friend Jerry came for a visit and brought it with him. I wanted to open it up to see how big it was and what kind of shape it was in. I also thought that maybe I could dry it out a bit before I moved it to the barn foundation. It weighed a ton!

I spread it out on the lawn to measure it and check its condition. I did this on a brutally hot day, one of those days where the weather forecasters were warning about a high UV index. So I spread it on the grass. Then Michelle announced that lunch was ready so I went inside for lunch. The plastic was on the lawn for an hour … maybe two. Not long at all.

When I first removed the plastic the lawn looked wilted. Then it completely died and turned brown!

It amazes me that even after 52 years on the planet I can still do such stupid stuff. I’m hoping that anyone who reads this blog and thinks that you have to be special to live off the grid will realize that it just isn’t so. Look at me. I power my home with renewable energy. I publish books. I run a CSA. I write a blog! I accidentally kill my lawn!

Apparently I am NOT the sharpest tool in the shed.

The good news is that after a week or two of watering it, it came back to life and is now as green as the surrounding lawn. You can’t even tell that it ever happened. I’m thinking it may even be better than ever and this will have turned out to be just one big lawn experiment.

This got me thinking about a few recent incidents where I learned that I am no rocket scientist in the brains department. I recently learned that the name of the musical group “The Bee Gees” actually stood for “The Brothers Gibb.” I knew that they were all Gibbs, but I had never made the connection; Brothers Gibb; Bee Gees. Michelle had clued in to this decades ago. Apparently I didn’t get that memo.

The other day I was in our local video rental store and Tim was playing the movie “Hop.” It’s an animated one with Russell Brand providing the voice for the main (rabbit) character and it looked cute. So I rented it because I like Russell Brand and wanted something light to watch that night. It turns out that it’s about The Easter Bunny. It starts out on an island I have read much about, with big statues of faces – Easter Island. But I have to admit, I never really thought much about why these bunnies had this secret chocolate factory on this particular island. Part way through the movie I finally blurted out… “Oh, they are on Easter Island … cuz he’s the Easter Bunny!” And I got that “look” from Michelle. The look that says “Are you for real?”

I think this is just part of how your brain can be distracted sometime. It’s like when they show people a video and ask them to count how many times the basketball players pass the ball. At some point a person dressed up as penguin walks through the crowd of players. Afterwards the viewers are asked, “How many times was the ball passed? Did you see the penguin walk through?” Almost no one spots the penguin when they are so focused on counting! That night as I watched the movie I just saw Easter Island and thought about how it’s the canary in the coal mine of global climate change. Who would have thought the Easter Bunny might live there?

This brings me to a story from our honeymoon that Michelle loves to tell. We were camping our way across Canada and hit our first National Park in the Rocky Mountains. We drove up to the gate to pay and I noticed a sign that said “Gravel Pads Provided.” I assumed that it meant that for people who slept in tents (that being Michelle and me) they would provide some sort of “pad” to put over the gravel to  “cushion” the area.

Well it turned out they just meant that rather than pitching your tent on some bumpy, root and rock encumbered patch of uneven dirt, they’d dumped in gravel to make it even. But after we’d paid I asked the park employee, “So do we get the gravel pads from you?” He kind of looked at me very puzzled and said “No, the gravel pads are at the sites.” “Oh, so when I get there they’ll be a gravel pad to put under my tent?” “Well, yes, the gravel pad is already there…” I believe this went on for some time before Michelle put the car in the gear and hit the accelerator before he thought that I was being some sort of wise guy and we were asked to leave the park.

Who knew? They just meant a “pad” they had dumped gravel in.

Which reminds me of a book by Alistair MacLeod that I was reading. I had enjoyed his first novel “No Great Mischief” and so was reading “The Lost Salt Gift of Blood.” When I was about halfway through I started to discuss it with Michelle. I commented that I’d read novels before that seem to weave a variety of different plots into one cohesive theme by the end of the book. Sometimes as you read this type of book about different people you wonder how their lives are ever going to link up. But this book had a bizarre series of chapters that jumped all over the place and didn’t seem to be related in any way. I was already quite a way through the book and there was no sign of the various characters or plots lining up. Michelle pointed out that it was actually a book of short stories. Not a novel. Oh. That explains it then.

So the next time I come across as pompous and arrogant, please remind me of this. Hey, don’t ever forget that you’re the guy who fried his own lawn.




  1. I remember that short story/novel thing! Ahhahahaha, so good.

  2. Hmmmm, interesting way to kill the grass to make way for new garden space…..

  3. Doone

    OMG….you have made me laugh so hard and so long… this a guy thing though? seriously, cause my hubby is the same way….


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