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

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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!

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

  1. You folks are amazing. Love what you’ve accomplished. Not for the faint of ❤️…

    Jenny aka Delia From BelleDeliaHomestead in Clayton, Ontario, Canada

  2. Hi, I just found your blog through instagram,I love what you are trying to do. I would also like to be able to produce most all of our food. I have a pretty good start on it, but a few things I need to work on. Love the food challenge. Look forward to looking through the rest of your blog.
    Have a great day
    Connie

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