Why did I just sign up to do this crazy thing – a Homegrown Year?

I’m going to live by eating almost entirely off our little “homestead farm” . . . for a year.

Why, you might be asking, would someone sign up to do something so - objectively insane? Humans have spent the vast balance of our history on this planet living in a state where food scarcity was one of the greatest threats to our existence. For most of us, as recently as three or four generations ago - and sadly for far too many of us even today - the wolf of hunger is constantly scratching at the door.

Why, after generations of innovation in the pursuit of the caloric plenty we currently enjoy, would I willingly throw myself backward into a world where my food intake is reliant upon the whims of the clouds as the break over the Rockies, the sun as it penetrates the soil in my garden, and those animals in our care? Also, how am I going to manage an entire year without a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup? 

The answer to my “why” lies in the same vein as why people who run, run marathons, (incidentally, I am approximately as likely to run a marathon as travel to Mars). There is something inherent in our humanity that drives us to pursue the goals that are just a little harder, faster, or further than we’ve been before. For me, this means taking the hobbies I already love - gardening, gathering the eggs from my flock of various fowl, hunting, fishing, milking, gourmet cooking, and food preservation - and shifting them into a structure aimed at a specific goal - namely, not starving for a year.

All the new skills I’ve gained over the last few years to grow and harvest my own food have made me feel more connected to myself and in awe of God than I can ever remember. Although I love what I do professionally, there is a unique gratification in the creation of the tangible. Growing and harvesting your own food engages the brain, soul, and all the senses in a way that almost nothing else can. 

It’s so easy to get into a pattern of scrolling and swiping, living vicariously through other’s experiences, and becoming a mere observer in our own lives. It’s almost as if we forget what actual living even feels like. Our phones present us with a strange dichotomy - people have become simultaneously the most, and least, connected we’ve ever been. 

This project year is a manifestation of the hope that both sides of the connection coin will improve with a more deliberate approach to time and communication. By sharing with you, my friends, this challenge in all the mediums available to me - I hope to have a better connection with you, but also with myself (sign up for the newsletter I'm doing about the challenge - "I haven't starved to death . . . yet).

I have never felt more complete than after a day that begins with milking goats at sunrise, a breakfast made entirely off that which I can gather on my way back to the house, and which concludes by making cheese with my husband after our boys are tucked securely in their beds at night (does that sound like a euphemism? I'm being literal here).

First, and most importantly, cheese is delicious - and NOTHING tastes like homemade, stunning cheese. Secondly, going through all the steps and paces to make a truly delicious cheese feels like paying homage to the tens and probably hundreds of thousands of people who have done this before. Some are probably lost to time, but their experience has been taught to others, replicated, tweaked, and perfected. It’s so easy to slap a piece of cheese on a sandwich, but when you stop to consider all the knowledge that went into just that one slice, it takes on an almost magical sheen.

Incidentally, my way of connecting back with “real life” is not the same way other people connect. I have friends who feel fulfilled when they have a group of interesting and engaged people around their kitchen island sipping champagne and nibbling off a perfectly assembled cheeseboard. Others feel it when they’re at the top of a mountain, or under the sea. I know people, (crazy ones) who feel it when they’ve somehow miraculously pushed past mile-18 in a run, or when they lose themselves in a colorful marketplace across the globe.

Whatever it is that reminds you why life is such an amazing gift, my hope for you is that you can reach out and grab and hold it in your hand for a few minutes, in the place your (and my) phone usually occupies. Examine it with all the love and wonder you remember from the day you found it.

My little farm is that for me. I’m equal parts nervous and excited to try this challenge - one entirely made up by me and my friends - but I’m also looking forward to meeting the person I’ll be on the other side of it. I can’t wait to find out how she struggled, what she learned, and how she sees the world differently. 

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