Editor’s Note: Welcome back our special guest bloggers, Doug and Stacy. Today they conclude their four-part series of living off grid with one very important topic – food.
“Get closer to your food.” For eight years, we have been on the quest to do just that. Now when we say “quest”, we mean that we sold everything, left the city life and built a log cabin from scratch. We decided that we wanted to slow down and be more intentional with our time and our health. On our 11 acres in the Midwest, we have begun the journey. In this day and age of toxic food sources, we wanted actions to speak louder than words. We wanted to be in charge of where their food came from, how it was treated, and what went in it.
One of the first decisions regarding food production we made was how to garden. We were coming from a background of no gardening experience (except the local community garden by our local library). We decided we needed to find a mentor to help us get started. Since the Amish lived very close to us, they became our mentors. Most Amish have large gardens and large families to help do the work. With our naivete, our first garden was going to be over 10,000 square feet. We also needed a way to plow the land. So we decided to do it the old way…we used a team of Belgian horses! This was definitely a challenge and something pretty cool to learn. However, our first couple of years had many challenges.
In our first year of gardening, we had a severe drought. In the second year, we had too much rain. And the summer in the Midwest is very hot and humid. We needed an easier way to grow our food that would be sustainable for us as we age. After a few years gardening with a team and plow, we figured this was not sustainable for us. We decided to embrace permaculture methods of a no till garden area and added many three foot raised bed gardens as well as a greenhouse.
One of the first things we did before moving was to audit the kitchen area. We were leaving 3000 sq. feet to 600 sq. feet. We could not believe all the gadgets we had accumulated and never used. We really needed to be intentional with our kitchen utensils and food processing tools because we were now the producers and consumers of all our food. Our Lehman’s catalog was great help. Knowing we were growing lots of produce, we needed heavy duty products. One of our favorites are the 4, 6, 8, and 12 quart stainless steel bowls. We were also grinding our own wheat berries for flour and adore the hand-cranked grain mill. The stainless gallon tea kettle is used daily and looks great on the Pioneer Princess wood cookstove. We also had an abundance of cream on the farm. The butter churner is amazing and is definitely a discussion piece when people come to visit. If it is not functional, heavy duty and used on a day to day basis, it is not in the kitchen.
We grew all the food. How are we going to preserve it? Remember, we live off grid with no electric or solar power. We learned the ways of our ancestors. Refrigeration isn’t really that old. We started fermenting foods using fermenting tops with mason jars, canning with water bath and pressure canners, and salting and smoking our meats. This year we have even added a root cellar to store our foods. It’s amazing what you can learn when you put your mind to it. We also feel a great deal of satisfaction knowing how to grow and preserve our own foods. Just like having a mentor to help us learn on our off grid journey, it is nice to have a store like Lehman’s to provide us products for our simple life.