The Farmer and the Forager… we move through the world and like to spend our time in quite different ways. One of us loves being around people, one of us likes more time alone. One of us loves mornings, the other one loves nights. One prefers to permaculture farm, one prefers wild permaculture. Yet, we have at least one major thing in common. We think all people have at least one thing in common.
We humans…we all have to eat.
Folks may sometimes think that it is silly, how often we talk about trying to create community over carrots. Making peace with peas. Farming our way to better bodies with broccoli. Skilling up while sowing seeds. Hoeing rows of radishes in the hopes to grow radical humans. Helping ladies find their inner wolf-woman in the forest over fiddlehead ferns. Cooking up connectedness in the outdoor kitchen over a wood fired stove.
Yet…we don’t think so, because it is one thing we all have in common…. FOOD.
We may make different choices about what to put on our plates and how it gets there, but we all gotta eat. We may farm it, we may forage it, but we have to eat… to live. To survive and thrive. So when we bought this homestead, we had at least one common goal.
We both wanted to provide as much of our own diet as humanly possible.
We wanted to see how much two people could grow, raise, forage, and preserve. We wanted to see how little we could buy in. We wanted to raise or hunt our meat and process it ourselves. Yes, the farmer wanted to lose a 150 pounds, the forager wanted empowerment and independence… but we both wanted to take responsibility for our diets in a huge way. But, we weren’t sure if we could.
When we started taking permaculture classes in the summer of 2015, it felt like a door cracking open in many ways. This was the biggest one. Farming and foraging the majority of our food, without it killing us with 80 hour work weeks, started to seem possible. Yet, we started getting told by our own customers and followers… that although permaculture sounds great, they have yet to see a permaculture farm or homestead in this area actually feeding the majority of its humans’ diets. They sure do seem to have been right, we’ve not seen one yet either. (But we sure would LOVE to, so if you are anywhere close to WNC and are growing/raising/foraging 80+% of your family’s diet, omg …. PLEASE EMAIL US. WE SO WANT TO VISIT + SHARE ABOUT YOU!!!!)
We’d like to tell you what we’ve spent the last few months planning. We’d like to answer our own question, by doing what we do–yet another Eight Owls Experiment.
Can marginal land with poor soil, the two of us and sixteen months of permaculture education–provide at least 80% of our diet? And not just for a little while… but for a FULL YEAR?
Well, starting today–we are about to find out. And we invite you to follow along during 2017 while we do it!! (You can subscribe to this blog, our youtube channel, follow us on facebook and instagram or sign up for our mailing list.)
Six years ago when we were in a city and spending our days behind computer screens, it sounded crazy to aspire to be a farmer and a forager at all. We certainly had no idea we could homestead off a collective 225 pounds and grow a ton of skills. Yet, here we sit! Much stronger, healthier, empowered, a hell of a lot more skilled, and darn happy about it.
We are ready to take our next step in the succession of being two homesteaders atop Panther Mountain. We want to take this to the next level and see how it shakes out. We are willing to change our diets again in big ways and phase into being practically paleo. Both of us are ready to see what it will do to our bodies to be eating the most local food we can get. We are going to get super real with sharing our journey, the good, the bad, and the (possibly) hungry–with you!
CAN WE DO IT? Will we survive? Will we thrive? Will the farmer lose this last ten pounds she’s been working on for a couple years? Will the forager hunt and gather her way to total empowerment? Will we prove to ourselves that we could caretake ourselves under just about any possible circumstance? Will it prove that even fledgling permaculture systems can feed a family? Will our families and friends want to strangle us over yet another difficult diet choice that makes it actually impossible for them to feed us when we visit? We will find out in 2017. And if you choose to follow our journey, you will too! (Don’t worry friends and family, we love you and we’ll bring our own! We swear we are not doing this just to make you nuts!)
And of course, what if we took this one step further and challenged YOU too? Are you willing to try to farm or forage more of your food in 2017 too? Or become a locavore? Or eat more whole organic foods that you cook with your family instead of the pre-packaged processed stuff? Or shop at farmers markets more and supermarkets less? The two of us sure hope we have shown over the last six years that making simple changes, one step at a time, can have a HUGE impact on changing your whole lifestyle! We also saw this awesome graphic, just this morning and it really hit home. If you decide to accept our challenge and take one step towards making a food challenge of your own–we would LOVE to hear about it!! Please feel free to comment below or on our social media if you decide to do a food challenge of your own in 2017.
-the farmer + the forager
So here’s the logistics for those who love’a the details.
We chose 8 things we are allowed to buy in (5 that will stay, and 3 that will hopefully phase out over the year):
1. Spices + Salt
2. Fat (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Coconut milk)
3. Beverages (Coffee, Tea, wine, spirits, cider, apple cider vinegar, and of course, the occasional greenheart juice)
4. Sweeteners (Sugar, Honey)
As the year goes on, we hope we won’t have to buy these things in past a certain point.
6. Mushrooms (ours should start to come in in spring, then wild ones in summer and fall)
7. Eggs (we finally got our feed them for free system in place! So, we will be getting hens again in spring and hopefully, not buying in our eggs will soon follow)
8. Garlic (ours didn’t do well this year, but we planted a ton in fall of 2016, so here’s hoping it will do well and we can stop buying this in in 2017)
We already have some things too, since we had bought bulk food in summer before we planned to do this challenge. There are grains in there–but we do plan to phase them out slowly over the course of the year. We are already gluten and dairy free–but want to be grain free one day as well, since we likely can’t grow much of that here. And that’s really our goal, we would just LOVE to be providing or trading for 100% of our diet one day–if that is even possible. And, of course, we don’t know the answer to that question yet.
What we already have:
45 pounds of brown rice, 75 pounds of corn grits, 5 pounds of various gluten free flours, 40 pounds of coconut oil, 20 pounds of flax, 110 pounds of winter squash and pumpkins, 10 pounds of dried beans and peas, 10 pounds of venison, 15 pounds of venison bones, 4 whole chickens, 3 whole rabbits, 3 gallons of mixed salt water fish, 5 gallons of frozen greens, 3 gallons of frozen green beans, 2 gallons of kraut, and then there are roughly 25 quart jars of miscellaneous dried veggies from the garden this year (peppers, sweet potatoes, greens, herbs, onions, garlic, beans, dried berries, raisins and tomatoes).
(We also have a failsafe. In the form of having close friends that either work at or own the only two health food stores in the area. They both follow this blog. They’d likely give us a lot of hell if we try to sneak something through the check out line that’s not allowed! We also have a pretty darn decent network of homesteading friends we could trade with if we get in a pinch. And hey, trading counts–it’s sure not like the pain of spending real money.)
A huge thanks to two of our sponsors for 2017!! Through the Woods Natural Health and Sow True Seed. (If your business is focused on the health and empowerment of our community and you would like to get promoted heavily by us in 2017–email the farmer!!)