a year's worth
being fed solely from our farm
I am most excited to be sitting down on this rainy afternoon to share with you all an announcement of grand proportions. We decided that this year we will be partaking in a little adventure we tried to dub something witty and catchy but couldn’t figure anything out, so we’re just going with “a year’s worth - being fed solely from our farm”. Right, pretty slick, eh? Okay, let’s get into it.
So, we’ve been farming for a good long while now. We’ve raised and bred all manner of animals and grown all manner of food. We have foraged and preserved, butchered and dried. We’ve built infrastructure, made do with half ass contraptions, and holy smokes have we learned and learned and been humbled and learned. I’d have to say that the best antidote for an inflated ego is farming, there’s just nowhere to hide. We’ve gotten to the point where the vast majority of our food comes from us, but not all of our food. That is what we are going to challenge this year.
Well before we started farming, we bought all of our food from local farmers. We read, we volunteered on farms, we learned all that we could. At the time I had a little nutrition practice and, truth be told, it was the nutrient density of our food was a great driver of all that we did. I remember driving two hours, each way, when our kids were small, just to get my clandestine raw milk. We learned how to eat with the seasons. We bought deep freezers so we could afford good meat. We budgeted our piddly dollars throughout the year so we could pay for a whole bison and beef every fall. All of those things turned out to be very helpful when we started farming. We already understood the premise of fall harvest, when the animals were fattest and at their most nutrient rich. We already knew how to store root vegetables, potatoes, and apples by digging “clamps” in our back yard that kept things fresh and sweet all frigid winter long. There is no such thing as a useless skill. Everything we learn brings us to another thing to learn and soon enough, we kind of have a grip on a thing or two.
Since buying our first farm, we have continued along our path of wanting to eat the most delicious, healthy foods available according to our seasons and locale. Back in the day, we were all wound up about peak oil and sensed that ‘the system’ was on life support. Today, I think there’s the amplified sense of things being kept artificially going in order to benefit the few at the cost of the many, but that’s no longer our primary motivation. It’s still a concern, but I think with the years of preparation we have put in, we’re in a place now where we feel pretty secure with where we’re at should things like.. oh… let’s say food shortages, suddenly appear. Not like that would ever happen, but let’s pretend.
But, it’s one thing to think we’re doing okay and another to put the pedal to the metal. So, that’s what we’re doing come this autumn. After fall harvest, which is how we start a new farming year, we have decided to exclusively eat only food that we have raised and grown here. If the winter squash fails, tough luck. If we want to roast up a goose for dinner but there’s only four left and it’s January, we’re going to have to put some thought into that. If I’m running low on butter, there’s nowhere to turn. No caffeinated anything. No vanilla. No lemons (ouch). No supplementing anything. Just what we grow and raise.
And yet, there’s some caveats to this plan. When we started farming we were all into the “self sufficiency” model. I have so many books on this from those days. Our whole plan was to do it alone, all alone. We didn’t need anyone to take care of ourselves. I see this as folly now. It’s one thing to raise and grow your food, but everyone needs their people. Community is where security lies. How that looks is varied and nuanced. Community can be defined as the people you interact with, but we also think it must mean our actual, physical community. It’s within community that we can again take control of systems of commerce and trade that build and enforce relationships. With that value set, we go into this year of feeding ourselves with the hope and understanding that bartering remains. If I can trade a turkey drumstick for a wheel of raw goat cheese from my neighbour, gosh darn it, I’m going for it. That said, the bartering is only for handmade, hand grown and raised goods from the people in our lives. I won’t be bartering 13 dozen eggs for some granola from Costco anytime soon ever.
Another caveat is gifts. Anyone that offers us some of their handmade preserves, or honey, or what have you is going to get my adoration and gratitude, not some weirdo reply of “Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly! You see we’re doing this thing where we can only eat what we grow or raise.” I suspect that should the time come when we do have to solely rely on our farm for 100% of our nourishment, we will still have the opportunity to give and to receive as it has always been.
Speaking of relying on our farm, seems this is as good a time as any to lay out the framework for how we’re going to go about this and how we will share, openly and candidly, what we learn. I am all too happy to share what could be classified as “failures”. The whole point of this exercise is to try things out, see where our weaknesses are and to share what we learn. Still, this is not armageddon (quite yet) and we still get to choose exceptions. In the case of full out apocalypse, we will need merchants from the east coast to come trade some salt with us, but until those peddlers start up again, we are going into the year with a year’s worth of salt. To be honest, I currently have a few years worth of salt stored up, but I will buy more still. It’s necessary for the way I preserve and for the enjoyment and digestion of our food.
Regarding ‘food on hand’. We’re certainly not going to waste or avoid any preserves we have around, but we’re not going to go out and make surplus batches of food either. We’ll go into this winter like we would any other. I will make my canned fruit, chutneys, pickled and fermented goodies, and pressure canned proteins in the quantities I usually do. I still have batches of raw honey and maple syrup in the storm cellar that have been around for ages. We just don’t use much sweet stuff. If we need it, it’s there, but there will be no big push to make more than I do for any other given year.
When do we start?
Fall harvest for us is usually done by the end of October. So, we’ve decided on a start day of November 1st. That means we will go into winter as we always do, but knowing there is no safety net of other friend’s farms or an order from the health food store. What it does mean is that this season will be busier than ever. The pressure is on. It’s either dry it, can it, ferment it, smoke it, cure it, freeze it, or go without for a year. Yikes. No last minute back ups when you realize you don’t have enough organ meat or whatever. No, I cannot call my friend and put in a bulk order of livers.
So, that’s it in a nutshell. I already know there will be things that I will miss. Vanilla powder which is a treasure to me mixed in with the homemade lattes I make, but oh yeah, the latte will be changing too. No rooibos I suppose. Will have to stick with foraged shrooms and barks which are lovely too. See? This is good. Even us, who eat almost all of our food from our farm, will be forced to really align ourselves with this place, everything we consume from the soil that grounds us to life.
This is not meant as a restrictive exercise. Instead, it’s an exercise in gratitude for the bounty we are a part of. We hope to find an even deeper connection to our home on this planet through the terroir and resonance of the food that nourishes us. And, of course, that food also feeds us through the work and relationships we build while raising and growing it. The eating of it is wonderful, but the nourishment starts in the seed of life.
There it is. I’ve said it and so now it must be. What do you think? Do you have any questions for me? Think we’re nuts? Think we’re brilliant? Want to send me a bag of lemons from your lemon tree? Let me hear it. I’m all ears.
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