Growing All My Food
I’m not sure what week I’m on, but I know that this is day 44 because my calendar says so. If you are confused and wondering what I’m talking about….
I decided this spring to see if I could raise all the food I eat for 101 days. No groceries, no roadside stands, no farmer’s markets, no CSA’s, no restaurants, nothing but the fruit of my own hands. I am growing all my food, myself. To read all the rules I’m following and why anyone would want to do this- go here.
I am relaxing into a new kind of “normal” with this food challenge.
Eating no longer takes as much planning, cooking, thinking or stress. I have several “go to” foods for those times when I don’t have time to think or cook. I am cooking fabulous meals that you would love. If I didn’t tell you we were only eating foods we raised, you may not even notice. It’s that time of year when there is more food in the garden than any human could eat. It may not be exactly what I WANT to eat, but there is plenty of it and it is good for me.
Lessons from Eating Only What I raise:
Lesson 1: Food Shouldn’t have frequent flyer miles
It is absolutely insane that so much of the foods in grocery stores arrives there by truck…. from the other side of planet earth. Just think about that for a minute. We use gas, fuel, refrigeration, electricity, time, humans and other resources just to move food around the globe. This has become the definition of stupidity to me. Why don’t we eat what grows here? If we can’t eat food from local farms near our homes or in our county, why don’t we at least eat foods from our state, country or continent?
Lesson 2: We are a bunch of spoiled 4 year olds
I am here to tell you. We are brats. We want instant gratification. We want what we want and we want it now. We don’t want to wait for asparagus season to eat asparagus, so we ship it from another country. We don’t want to wait for tomato season so we go to our local grocery and purchase colorless, flavorless, nutrient-less imitations that were either grown in a hot house or shipped from around the world. We don’t want to wait until October for crisp, fresh apples, so we buy the mushy ones in the super market that were picked last October and have been stored for 9 months in a refrigerator somewhere.
We are losing in this instant gratification game. In an effort to appease our unending appetites we are losing our health. We are losing nutrients. We are losing flavor. We are losing freshness. We are losing the glorious, precious skill of waiting and appreciating. We are losing the self control it takes to look forward to tomato season and glutton ourselves with the bright, red deliciousness until the frost comes and kills them all.
When you wait all year for that first tomato of the season, picked fresh off the vine, you will not be disappointed. The taste will literally floor you. Especially if you haven’t had any sugar in 40+ days.
Lesson 3: Put up your food
I know a lot of you do can and put up your own food already. However, I still think many people today are missing out on the satisfaction and thrill of saving our own food. When our gardens, road-side stands, farmers markets and CSA’s are bursting with produce this is our time to capture that goodness and preserve it for the winter. Our great grandmothers may have canned out of necessity, but I think they found great worth and satisfaction in this skill. When the food found covering your table came from the work of your farm, hands, markets, and time it is deeply fulfilling.
I speak for myself as well. I think I can do more. I can do better. I desire to expand my canning efforts. I want to make zucchini jam and zucchini relish. I want to pickle corn. I want to can beef stew and vegetable soup. There are so many places I have yet to go in the canning world. I can’t wait to get there!
Lesson 4: Fresh is best
It’s truly amazing how good food is when it’s fresh picked. I’m beginning to think that all the fancy sauces, reductions and spices we add to our food exist to hide the fact that our food has little flavor. It’s traveled far. It was picked before it’s peak (so it could make the trip). It has lost nutrients and life over the journey. It’s been hiding in cold storage. By the time it gets to our kitchen it’s nearly dead.
Alive food is better in so many ways. A fresh chicken tastes more chickeny. A fresh green bean doesn’t need bacon or onions or garlic, it is bursting with flavor by itself. A fresh cucumber is as sweet as an apple. A fresh potato is juicy, crisp and tastes worlds better than any grocery store counterpart.
Salt, pepper and lard are my main cooking ingredients. When I cook my pastured pork, grass-fed beef and wild venison it just doesn’t take much to make them mouth watering.
Lesson 5: God is good
I think this whole exercise of growing all the food we are eating has aligned our sights on God. How good He is to us. How He has blessed us. How faithful He is to provide for us. I am astounded at the amount of food He has given me out of my little gardens and farm. I may not like all of it (Yeah, I’m talking to you, turnip) but He has provided more than I could ever ask or imagine. The wild blackberries, the deer, the wild onions, the wild turkeys, the black raspberries, even the fish in the pond. There is food everywhere.
Lesson 6: Change is good
Every organic, real-food, whole-food, clean-food cookbook from my library is currently in my kitchen. I have cooked and eaten nearly every meal in my arsenal and need some fresh inspiration. Sorry if you are one of those young whipper-snappers who does all their reading/ researching online. I’m one of those old people who still like to hold a book in her hands and flip pages.
I’m getting sick of the traditional, southern meat & potatoes with a green something on the side. I want something international. I want new flavor combinations. I want change.
So, for this next month of the challenge I’m going to go to places this cook has never gone before. I’m going to stretch my culinary skills and create some new dishes. I will still be stuck within the boundaries of whatever I am growing on the homestead – but I’m gonna be as adventurous as I can with what I have to work with.
This Week I Ate:
- Ribs – Oh heavens yes. When you raise your own food rib night is a special occasion. There just aren’t that many ribs on a pig and they must be savored. We don’t buy meat from stores or other sources, we raise it. When we run out of ribs, we are out of ribs until another animal with a rib cage dies. This is sad. This also goes back to the patience, waiting, eat it when it’s in season skill that no one has anymore. I wait for my ribs…… for a loooooong time. Rib night is like Christmas.
- Potatoes – I am eating potatoes at an alarming rate. If I keep eating them at this pace there will be no more potatoes by the end of next week. I just keep going out and digging up “a few more.” This is not good. If I want to have potatoes for another 60 days I need to show some restraint. I am literally eating potatoes like they are going out of season…. which I guess is a good thing… since they are…
My saving grace is that I have 2 beds filled with sweet potatoes. I hate them. I have hated sweet potatoes my entire life. BUT I’ve never been this hungry. I have a feeling I’m going to like sweet potatoes this year.
- Mexican – I have mastered homemade tortillas, Mexican flavors using only fresh garden veggies and spicy cream sauce. You would probably not like it as much as your nearest Mexican indulgence, but it’s fresh. I grew it. And I love it. The kids and DH go crazy for my homemade Mexican night & we have been having it once a week.
- Wheat Berries (which I grind into fresh flour)- this is the filler food when nothing else is available. We use fresh flour and yeast to make all sorts of good things: whole wheat muffins, pita bread, pizza crust, slider buns, bread even pancakes. I keep zipper storage bags filled with these homemade baked goods for those times I don’t have time. I can grab 2 muffins or a pita and head back out to the garden.
- Old, Old, Old Recipes – I have a couple of cook books from another time. One was published in 1910, the other in 1890. The beautiful thing about these cook books is that apparently whoever wrote them was growing the same foods that I am growing. There is hardly an ingredient found in the book that isn’t found on my farm. It’s glorious. Not only are the recipes simple and basic, we have really enjoyed them.
Some side observations:
Are we making less garbage? Well, you would certainly think so. Our food is coming from the dirt instead of a store, so that definitely cuts down on packaging and bags and plastic.
We still manage to create an unbelievable amount of garbage. I’m not sure how we do it. Oh, wait, yes I am.
I have 2 small ‘garbage collectors’ who live on the second floor of my house. They literally take things out of OTHER people’s garbage cans and bring them home. This includes their grandparents homes, neighbor homes and our pawnshop. It doesn’t help the junk collecting that our pawnshop is a couple doors down from a DollarTree. A 9 year old can acquire an amazing amount of junk at the DollarTree with a few dollars. No, I don’t give them money and let them go to the DollarTree so they can collect more junk. A man I happened to be married to, that I call DH, is the culprit.
This junk all inevitably ends up in their rooms. It is a matter of days before I give their rooms a shakedown, find the contraband, and dispose of it….. in the trash.
So, the trash still accumulates, but it’s not from the groceries!
Boy oh Boy is this fun. I am saving buckets at the grocery store.
I still have to buy all the annoying NONfood items like:
- Paper goods: toilet paper, napkins
- Cleaning supplies: Dish washing Soap, Home cleaners, Vinegar,
- Personal Care Items: Shampoo, Conditioner, soap, toothpaste, coconut oil
- Pet goods: Dog food, cat food, ferret food, cow grain, hog feed
- Canning supplies: Apple Cider Vinegar, pickling salts, spices, lids, rims, pectin
- Other Summer necessities: organic bug sprays, mineral based sun screens & essential oils
- Girly feminine supplies: I’ll save you the details, but we have 3 girls in our home so these things add up
From day one this challenge was intended for our entire family for the most part. The little ones are getting supplements in the form of fresh fruit, rice & pasta among other carb-filled treats. DH is on the challenge for the meals he is eating with me. My oldest daughter (14) has stuck with the challenge since day 1 and is handling it like a champ. My oldest son lasted approximately 4 hours. Because he’s a weenie.
Doing this with my oldest daughter has been such a joy. We are having such fun growing things, planning meals and dreaming of what we’ll eat next week. I just can’t imagine doing this without her. She has been my strength when I’ve been weak and my #1 cheerleader all along. We are having fun packing juvenile, lunch boxes and taking our meals to restaurants and ordering empty plates. I have to say that having my daughter do this with me has turned it into a fun adventure instead of a miserable punishment.
The new inspiration and breath of fresh air to this challenge is that my oldest son has decided to try again. As of Wednesday of last week he has (re)joined us in eating only the fruit of our hands.
I have to say that this is just what I needed. I am excited to see him meet the challenge. I am happy he is going to get off the sugar. I can’t wait to hear him tell me how much better he feels. I am excited to have someone else to encourage and love and cook for.
Until next week- Keep Eating Healthy!
If you missed the first few weeks of my Homesteaders Food Challenge here’s the links:
- Homesteaders Food Challenge – What it is
- Headaches, cravings, cooking & starvation – Week 1 Survival
- Can I Grow All My Own Food – A Diet is Born – Week 2
- Never Diet Again – Weight Loss, Sugar Detox & Finding your Ideal weight – Week 3
- One Month – No preservatives, no additives, no artifical ingredients, no sugar, no GMOs, nothing but homegrown goodness – Week 4