A Homegrown Year

I’m going to live off of that which I can produce on our small “micro-farm” north of Denver, Colorado – for an entire year. It seems like such a bizarre thing to type it out loud, but here we are. Wondering about the rules of this crazy year? Here they are.

By “live” I mean “eat,” I can still leave, I’m not becoming a hermit. In fact, much of this social experiment will consist of trying to figure out exactly how close I can get to living my normal life while relying entirely on the food I produce here. This doesn’t extend to clothing or personal care products – depending on how this goes I might need all the comfort I can get. Because I’m going to eat off what I produce. Every day. Literally, every day – for an entire year. You may wonder “why” and I try to answer that, here.

Ever since moving to our urban micro-farm we have been adding plants, animals, and employing strategies to produce our own food on site. This has included a small herd of goats, chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, quail, and an aggressive garden strategy. We have also planted fruit trees and have learned to milk the goats (seriously). We make our own cheese, yogurt, gather eggs in the morning – and yes, I have even slaughtered my own animals (only birds, so far) for meat. I’m not a vegan so I’m going to have to figure that out, too.

So, that’s the plan – become self-producing of my own food for an entire year. This challenge feels like a hard – but doable – goal that will allow me to take all these new-found hobbies and point them in a specific direction.

Once my friends get over the initial shock as I announce my intention to live like this for a whole year, the questions start:

What will you do about those things you can’t produce? Barter. My friend Emily, whose crazy idea this was, has formed the “rules committee” of this year to help me navigate what I can and can’t do. Obviously, there are things I’ll need to procure that aren’t here. According to the rules committee I need to find the people who make them and barter.

I will only be able to use those foodstuffs I produce here to barter with other sources – so no, if you go buy a Big Mac I won’t be able to trade for that with some goat cheese. That said, this isn’t constrained by geography – so if you grow or produce something (especially wine, avocados, wheat or sugar beets or cane) email me at hungrykelly@realbestlife.com if you’re interested in a barter. I think this will be both a study in self-production and in how difficult it is to live without the support of a societal network.

What are you going to do about coffee? (I’m a serious coffee addict.) Unclear, as of right now. I guess I need to find a coffee grower or consider giving it up? The logistics of an international barter could be challenging though. This could be an opportunity to try to dial down my coffee addition, which is something I’ve needed a push toward for years.

What about wine? Also, barter. The Husband also wants to start – literally, this is how he said it – “shining.” Oh man, I hope I don’t end up blind.

Speaking of Husband and kids, are they doing this with you? No, our kids are basically made entirely out of mac and cheese. Although the Husband is being incredibly supportive, he is not signing up to do this with me. He did appoint himself to the rules committee, though. 

When does this year start? The working date as of right now is August 1st. There’s a lot of prep work that has to go into getting this place ready to sustain an entire person.

How can I follow along with this epic disaster? I’ll be posting here, on RealBestLife as we prepare and get underway. We started a youtube channel for videos (make sure to subscribe), I post all the time on RealBestLife Instagram, especially the stories, and on Facebook. More ways to connect will come, but I will also be sending out an update newsletter (working title: I didn’t starve to death, yet) so sign up for that, too. 

The thought of really digging in on the small-farm, homesteader life is both scary and so exciting. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

41 thoughts on “A Homegrown Year”

  1. Kelly, I’m very excited for you and can’t wait to follow along. Is it “cheating” to start stockpiling coffee now to get you through the year? Asking for a friend. (That friend is you.)

  2. So excited to follow this. We are moving to 5 acres and interested in similar strategies. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  3. Please stop feeding Democrat anti Liberal Progressives any more silly ideas to be forced onto the rest of us without our consent, k? Not all of us want to be virtue signalling ctrl-left idiots living in poverty. If you think this is progress you need go get in line for your bread and train ride to the local Live Food market. You should find the people that indoctrinated you into this nonsense and punch them. When the debts that we should be paying down right now are being used for this Climate Changes crony capitalist scream fest will someday come due and your progeny will be living like this whether they want it or not.

    1. Yes, because last time I checked – growing my own food, self-reliance, homesteading and creation are all SUPER LEFTY principles. Choosing to try something for me has literally nothing to do with government control, and if anything, it will demonstrate that we need less government control, not more. Thanks for playing, though.

  4. There is no reason to give up coffee. Since the dawn of mankind, trade has been a method utilized to obtain what you do not have, or produce. Trade what you produce, for what others produce. This does not limit you to trading with only those within walking distance of your micro-farm. Trade crosses all boundaries, and, more importantly, it is a human action where your choice, that being coffee, can be fulfilled by another choosing something you produce. You both, as traders, come out as winners.

    1. So, the good news is that the rules committee is allowing me to barter for things not constrained by geography. That means that I can ship people something and they can ship me something in exchange. I will NOT be bartering with those only within a walking distance from here. That said, I have to barter with the source producers of things – and most (all?) coffee is grown internationally. The logistics could get tricky.

    1. Because it’s something different and challenging. I would argue that if I am actually living off what I produce that’s the opposite of being a “POSER” but, 🤷‍♀️.

  5. Instead of barter, check with the rules committee about selling produce and using the money to buy what you don’t have. This technique has been around kind of a long time too. It might allow some leeway in “The Great Java Hunt”.

    Good luck, I look forward to following this endeavor.

  6. I grew up on a ranch in WY, and except for bread/wheat, coffee, rice and citrus, I think we grew (or raised, depending on the particular CHON product) just about everything else (modulo some McCormick spices, salt, paper, etc.). It was just the way it was – I’m not sure any of us (well, my parents) considered it any sort of grand enterprise – they’d been raised the same way.

  7. EDIT: (Can’t edit, but…)
    I’m guessing learning how to do this from scratch, if you haven’t been doing it your entire life would be a super interesting enterprise. (There are a LOT of details in/around the whole damn thing).

  8. This sounds like quite an interesting undertaking.

    A few items to think about and track:
    1) Time consumed in preparing, gathering, etc. How much of your day will be spent just making sure you make it to the next day?
    2) Animal feed and plant stuff (fertilizer, pesticide, etc.). Will you be trying to grow/cover the needs of the animals that you then subsist off of?

    This actually can provide some great information on the efforts and pluses and minuses of a more sustainable life style. And at the very least we’ll have a handy handbook for the coming zombie apocolypse.

  9. Isn’t cash just another form of barter? Why can’t you trade your produce for a fair price then trade that money for things you can’t produce, like coffee and wheat?
    If i were on the rules committee I’d be mostly concerned with too much enthusiastic support of people giving you unsolicited gifts of coffee and wine ;).

  10. Could you make an exception for coffee and “barter” some of your produce for cash and trade the cash for coffee? Or find someone who sells coffee beans at your local farmers market and swap them some of your products for it?

  11. The standard experience around here (New Brunswick, Canada) was that the pioneers in the 19th centuary could indeed mostly eat rather plainly from their own smallholding, but that salt, clothes and personal smallwares, pottery, spices, sugar, medical items and services, iron work and tools generally, transport, education, etc. Etc. had to be bought in or bartered for. Hunting mattered, as did fish if you were handy to the right water. Essentially, true self sufficiency was an illusion, even with free land.

    As a failed and now elderly hippie, I am in good company in never being able to live without paid work or an entrepreneurial equivalent. God luck in your own endevours!

  12. Before he died,my father lived in rural Georgia south of Atlanta. The last 10 years or so of his life he observed an influx of folks buying 3 to 5 acres for their farm. Most of these folks came from Atlanta and had never actually lived on a farm. Dad was supportive, and helped some of the new neighbors with their questions about, well, practically everything. And, since he bred donkeys., he sold a few. I asked how he thought all this would turn out. He thought in 3 to 5 years there would be a lot of very small farms for sale, except for the couple right down the road. He felt they would be successful. He was right on both counts. Good luck

  13. A worthwhile project, especially challenging since you’re doing it alone. I agree with John Venlet about trading for things you cannot produce yourself like coffee

  14. Coffee…during the civil.war…was dried ground up dried okra seeds. Our missionary friends in Africa also use dried okra seeds for coffee. Just a suggestion 😊.
    I’ll be following for bartering ideas. We grow Moringa and tons of veggies. I’m jealous of your goat cheese.😊 Can’t wait …great adventure.

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