Farming + Foraging 80+% of our own food for a year (2017 food challenge update)

It’s been almost three months since I first blogged that we were going to food challenge ourselves in 2017 to farm and forage (or trade for diversity or so we can actually like have dinner with friends at their houses this year) for 80% of our own food. And some friends and family have been asking lately for an update on how it is going – and I sure do want to answer!

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This food challenge is one thing ’round here that is going AWESOME so far. In fact, we’ve even stopped buying in several things on our list of eight allowed purchased foods. We had decided we could buy in eight things when we started this challenge, spices/salt, fat, beverages (coffee, tea, etc), sugar/honey, buckwheat, mushrooms, garlic, and eggs. We gave up buckwheat pretty quickly and never ended up buying any in. We also quit buying mushrooms and garlic in January. Our oyster, shiitake, and wine cap mushrooms started to come in early and our chives are doing so well already that we are just using those in lieu of garlic for now. We also both gave up refined sugar in early February, so short of buying in one 2 pound bag a month to start kombucha–we are off it. We just ran out of honey from the bees last year, so we’ll likely just be patient and wait until they make more  this summer before we get any. We’ve also not had to trade for anything in almost 6 weeks, as the season seems to be starting early and there’s been enough veggies, rabbit meat and wild food for the two of us coming in. (pics below: the first decent haul of spring turnips a few weeks back, slow cooked rabbit, and the exciting first lambsquarters sighting of the season!)

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Mika and I were nasty sick for most of late January and February with the crud that was going around town, but we both caved to getting some antibiotics as appropriate technology and are finally getting better. Then, of course, stress of playing catch up on the farm has wrecked havoc on us and our adrenals the last few weeks too. Bah humbug, but hey – such is homestead life. It happens, and like all things – it is how we handle it that counts. But, in the spirit of homestead truths – being sick did find us cheating a couple times. We bought in some miso paste when we were at our nasty sickest per our doctor’s advice to try that in our bone broth. And we also bought in two bunches of bananas and one lemon for sore throats. But hey, here’s hoping we won’t get the crud and have to do that again!

One thing that is not going awesome about this food challenge is remembering to plug in everything we ate into the spreadsheet each day! It’s a total drag trying to remember in the spring pace of farm life, especially since it has long since said we are up and over 80%. I can see it totally falling off our radar by summer, but we shall see. I so wonder if our lack of grocery store receipts would count as well as the spreadsheet?! 🙂 It might just have to! But for now at least… we are trying to keep up with it.

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I’m finding myself grateful for lots of things lately–besides having spent the winter opening up a ton of new growing space and creating new terraces…. one of them is having had a bumper crop of bunnies born in the last couple months. No lie, there’s got to be fifty or sixty out there total – so many I can’t get an accurate count. I’m so over the moon about it, because they are fun to hang with, I am getting a couple of new does to keep out of this batch (one is pictured above), and because we are a few weeks away from running out of venison from the fall. So rabbit, other folks unwanted spring roosters showing up and going fishing will be our only meat sources until fall rolls around again.

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We are still buying in eggs for now while we are resetting the forager’s flock – but man alive am I glad we will have new ladies laying right here by summer! We’ve got 13 new little golden comet, dominique, and ameraucana hens that Mika is raising up to go back on free range this summer at the farm. Taking last year off from raising chickens while we got new infrastructure growing for them to eat was so hard, we LOVE eggs! Especially after having been spoiled on eating our own for five years before it. Yet, we sure don’t want to have to pay to feed them – so it feels great to know that we have a new system for doing that and will have eggs again soon. This picture was from mid-february so they are starting to look like legit little hens now, it’s quite cute to see them outside pecking around during the day… anddddd not so cute that they are inside at night in their brooder still chirping me awake from time to time while we wait out it not being so cold at night! Although, that whole thing is about to end–they’ll say bye bye to the wood stove and move outside for good.

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Can we do it? Keep this up for a whole year? Farm and forage enough food with just us two doing the work (as we won’t have a staff, work traders, or interns this year)? The Forager’s dog Scout sure seems to think so, and we do too.

So, I’ll close with this, one of my very favorite pieces of art hanging in our house – from the amazing woman behind Starfangled Press in Brevard. I look at it every single day and love it so much. It’s so true, and so good to me!

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-the farmer

—–

I’ve tried to be super clear over the years that I’m no expert in this life, but that I do love to share what I’ve learned about it and what the homestead truth is of what this transition from city life to farm life has really been like. So, I do want you to know that we are open for our fourth season and booking now for custom workshops, farm tours, land or online consultations, and immersions. If you want to come check out how we are providing so much of our own diet ourselves on marginal land – You can read about options on our website or shoot me an email. We mostly focus on talking to new homesteaders, farm dreamers, or folks wanting to make big changes in their lifestyle – but we can also recommend what local experts we’ve liked taking classes with too.

And of course, we can only keep our costs low and offer scholarships because we take donations – so if you feel inspired by our farm or our story, please consider making a donation to our non-profit arm.

You can either send checks or money orders made out to “Redbud Institute” with a memo line that says “for Eight Owls Farmstead” and mail them to PO box 1791 Brevard, NC 28712. OR you can pay via PayPal by sending your donation to this email address “redbudinstitute.nonprofit@gmail.com”, again please put a memo note on the donation that it is for Eight Owls Farmstead.

Redbud Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so you will get a receipt to show you donated to one. 100% of your donation will go straight to fund operating expenses, equipment and education at Eight Owls Farmstead. Please make sure to include your mailing address if it is not on your check and email address, so we can send you a receipt and our eternal thanks!

Farm shares of education and inspriation

We get asked by new visitors to the farm pretty often, “So, do you sell shares?” I know what they mean, can folks purchase weekly share boxes of the no spray, no till produce we grow here. I totally get why they ask, these vegetables and wild foods don’t taste like any others I’ve tried either. ;-p So, I tell them that we do have overflow produce to sell to students and friends sometimes, but no – we don’t sell weekly farm shares of produce. And to this farmer, there’s a seriously good reason for that.

We don’t sell shares because we focus on providing farm shares of education so that folks who can and want to… will grow these kinds of vegetables right in their yard too. We sow a lot of seeds of inspiration to start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can. That way, we can save our veggie extras for those who can’t grow food at their place for one reason or another.

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Clay seed bombs we made with eight excited young folks from Mountain Sun Community School yesterday on the farm (3-17-2017)

To this farmer, there’s nothing more important to me than the food I put in my body. And it just plain ol’ tastes better to me when there’s only a few minutes between harvesting and food hitting my plate. It tastes better when I grow it myself. There’s no hot car ride to wilt on or gasoline involved in getting my greens fix on, and no packaging or processing for my produce…. short of my trusty handmade harvest basket (made by the amazing woman that I was named after).  When I go out in the afternoon to harvest something for dinner, I can see exactly where it came from. I built the soil it resides in from materials I gathered from right here on the farm instead of buying amendments in, I sowed the seed, I tend the plant, I harvest it, and then I eat it. With our meat–I got that animal’s parents together, that critter is born here, I raise it, I process it and I cook it. To me personally, that’s the very best version of this process… it’s the way the food tastes the very best. I love the embodied energy that that our organically grown farm food holds. I dream of more folks eating this quality of food too, and it not costing them so much in the old wallet.

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Last night’s harvest dinner! Every night in March these these salad baskets get bigger and more diverse. We farm and forage them together on an afternoon walk while we geek out on the wild edibles that grow themselves here. We paired that salad with rabbit soup that I whipped up from the bone broth I made in this one on one rabbit processing and cooking workshop last week. It feels so darn good to eat a dinner 100% from right here.

My body feels really good about this process too. Farming and changing my diet is what has managed my anxiety and depression long term. It’s what got me off a prescription for that. It’s certainly what helped me lose weight and keep it off for three years now. I even had a physical a few weeks back and I sure think it’s what (short of having recently had the sinus crud that’s going around) made my doctor call and say my lab work was perfect. I’ll so take that over six years ago, when my doctor called to tell me I was pre-diabetic, had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and was in real trouble if I didn’t make some changes.

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I took him at his word….and I listened. I made some very big changes, and managed to design a body and life that I just love the tarnation out of – every day. It all sounds so dreamy right?! 

But, here’s the rub – it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Transitioning into this kind of lifestyle change when there is so much to learn is hugely stressful. Detoxing off 30 odd years of a sad american diet was a lot to put my body through. None of this was a quick fix or a magic trick. There’s a lot to this story of the farmer’s diet and I never want anyone to think it was easy or quick for my body. Or that learning about this lifestyle is simple. It might be for other folks, but it wasn’t for me.

So, that’s why I focus on farm shares of education and the mother of all inspirational chats here. It’s why I do one on one or small group workshops with women. It’s why I let them come immerse themselves in staying here on the farm for a few days. It’s why I consult with folks on FaceTime about what this has all been like. It’s why I teach youngins’ how to sow seeds and embrace the weeds. And it’s why I make all of that as affordable as I can and still squeak out a living–because I want to see the world I live in change, and I’m so willing to build the soil to grow that change in my tiny little corner of it. I’d love to share what that really looks like with you too.

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Six years, it’s not that long of a time – I remember exactly what it was like to be living a very different life and dreaming of this one. I remember so clearly having no experience, and having no clue where to begin. But if I can show people on thing here on this farm, I hope it is an example – that it is possible... to make big changes and not just survive it – but thrive in it too. 

-the farmer

—–

I’ve tried to be super clear over the years that I’m no expert in this life, but that I do love to share what I’ve learned about it and what the homestead truth is of what this transition has been like. So, as I sit here outside writing this to you now listening to the rain fall on my seeds – I can feel that spring is so near and the time to grow food is here!! So, I do want you to know that we are open and booking now for custom workshops, farm tours, land or online consultations, and immersions. You can read about options on our website or shoot me an email. We mostly focus on talking to new homesteaders, farm dreamers, or folks wanting to make big changes in their lifestyle – but we can also recommend what local experts we’ve like taking classes with too.

And of course, we can only keep our costs low and offer scholarships because we take donations – so if you feel inspired by our farm or our story, please consider making a donation to our non-profit arm.

You can either send checks or money orders made out to “Redbud Institute” with a memo line that says “for Eight Owls Farmstead” and mail them to PO box 1791 Brevard, NC 28712. OR you can pay via PayPal by sending your donation to this email address “redbudinstitute.nonprofit@gmail.com”, again please put a memo note on the donation that it is for Eight Owls Farmstead.

Redbud Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so you will get a receipt to show you donated to one. 100% of your donation will go straight to fund operating expenses, equipment and education at Eight Owls Farmstead. Please make sure to include your mailing address if it is not on your check and email address, so we can send you a receipt and our eternal thanks!

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