Do we really eat self-sufficiently?

I continue to be asked this question: Do you really eat self-sufficiently?

It’s a fair question -- after all, I wrote the book on it. “The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers” is not a research-based book. This is how we live. We eat out off our two acres every day of the year, no matter the season. It’s not hard, it’s not time consuming, it certainly saves us huge amounts of money (I’ll be happy to compare my monthly or yearly grocery store bill to anyone’s -- I’ll win, I promise).

Someone asked me to tour their garden recently and give them some advice. While they were showing me their spread, this person said to me “It must be nice to stay home all day gardening and researching for your next book.”

Um, so wrong.

I have a full-time job (journalist for the Provo Daily Herald) and several part-time jobs (teaching writing both in person and online classes, book tour and book writing, directing writing conferences, selling pure, nonhybrid seed raised on our own property, teaching gardening and homemade yeast and self-sufficiency classes). I’m one of the few lucky people who not only gets to do exactly what I love every day (garden, write, teach) but I am also over-employed in an under-employed economy. (Don’t mistake that for well-paid. If you knew what writers get paid, you’d weep. There is a reason we are self-sufficient.)

So no, I don’t have luxuriant free time to lounge around gardening and cooking and researching books. This is just our life. I was paid one of the highest compliments of my life this week when a friend looked at me and said “You are the epitome of ‘If you need something done, ask a busy person.’ “ Made my day.

I say all of this because everyone can do something to feed themselves, no matter your schedule or where you live -- a huge farm, a couple of acres, a condo, a rented apartment. I have lived in all of these, and I have grown my own food on all of these properties to some degree. If you want to do it, you can.

So, to answer the question “Do you really eat self-sufficiently” I’m going to try to blog more often about what we are eating, to show you. And I’ll try to take some pictures, if I can remember. (It’s hard for a hungry person to remember to stop and take a photo :) Here is some of what we ate this week:

Pasta sauce:
This is what I made today. In this dish from our garden: onion, carrot, beet, tomatoes, basil, Japanese purple mustard, Swiss chard. I diced the onions, removed the stems from the mustards and chard, grated the carrot and beet and put the tomatoes whole, with all the rest, into the blender with salt for a few minutes and then put the puree on the stove on the lowest possible heat for about an hour and half. We are actually eating this tomorrow, for Sunday dinner over whole wheat pasta, so the sauce is in the fridge as we "speak".

In this dish from our property: dough made from homemade, natural yeast, sauce made from our tomatoes and basil (pureed and simmered for an hour with salt; I should have put in one of our onions, but I forgot). Also worth mentioning -- artisan cheese made locally at Heber Valley Artisan Cheese, which I love!

Cream Stew:
In this stew from our garden: purple podded pole beans (dried, grown from our own seed), Contender beans (dried), white, yellow, orange and red carrots, turnip, corn.

Garden Salad:
In this salad from our garden: a gourmet lettuce blend of Rouge Grenbloise (a red lettuce), Green Jewel Romaine (grown from our own seed), Oak Leaf (light green and frilly), Marveille de Quatre Saison (bronze and green lettuce); also, orange and yellow carrots.

Toast & Eggs:
In this dish from our property: fresh eggs, toast from homemade bread made with homemade natural yeast. (Raw honey from my parents’ farm -- that deserves a mention).

Garden Soup:
In this soup from our garden: potatoes (grown from our own seed potatoes), rutabaga, swiss chard, onion, basil, carrots, tomatoes (pureed fresh). Also in this soup: lentils, chickpeas, brown rice, hamburger. No recipe. All garden soups are the same -- fill the pot about ⅔ with water, bring to boil, put in veggies, cook, season to taste. I added the chard at the last minute.

Toast (several times this week -- it’s been toast weather):
Using homemade bread baked with homemade, natural yeast, spread with an assortment of our homemade jams and jellies.

Using homemade bread baked with homemade, natural yeast, and lettuces from the garden.

The kids have been demanding these, especially Xander. Made with our fresh, free-range eggs, of course.

We have apples coming out our ears. I've given dozens away this week, and the kids gobble them up off the trees, and Charmayne makes wonderful apple crisp, and tomorrow for a treat we are having gjetost cheese over apple slices broiled for 2 minutes -- a new favorite tree that a friend introduced me to today. The broiled cheese tastes EXACTLY like caramel on the apples. So good!

Finally, we don't eat baby chicks! But I thought this photo was so great, I decided to put it up. We are really enjoying our unexpected and rare October chicks -- two broods!
Next time: Do we go to the grocery store? And for what? Thanks for reading! See you soon. -Caleb.


  1. Your Garden Soup is like our Stone Soup. We use whatever we have in our vegetable bin (purchased at the grocery store or from you, but we still try not to waste) and season for our mood. I love the idea of you sharing with us how you *really* do it. I'm afraid my dear yeast, Hope, has passed. I can't keep natural yeast alive, so I can't imagine maintaining the gardens and chickens that you do. Thank goodness for people like you, and Whole Foods! :)

  2. I found your book today at Barnes & Noble's - what a wonderful surprise! I am new to gardening and self-sufficiency so I read a lot and so many books on these subjects are written by East Coasters or Pacific Northwesters. It is a relief to be sure that the techniques being described will work for me. (I live in Provo) BTW, I especially loved your mention of sugar beets and wanted you to know that mangel seeds are available from Johnny's Seeds catalogue. I'm going to try raising some next year as winter fodder for my chickens. Thanks for your book! Oh, quick question-the dates for your classes don't have years so are they for 2011 only?
    -Mish in Provo

  3. Nothing makes me happier than to make a meal in December out of something we put up over the summer. We can do a lot with a simple jar of canned tomatoes. Our meals have never been better and our grocery bill is shrinking.

    Now I need to get bees and a cow.

  4. My mother-in-law orders the books for the library here in St. George so a lot of the time I get first dibs on awesome books. She lets me read before she even puts them on the shelf. On Sunday she handed me your book. Not all the books she gives me are great but yours...great! Lots of great info on being self-sufficient in simple ways. I'm planning on buying the book soon (a little Christmas present for myself) and was thinking that I need it signed by the author himself (that'd be you). That brought me here to your blog. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand another reason I'm here is because I was picturing your homestead (if that's what you call it) and thought it sounded like my dreams soooooooo then I thought maybe you let people come see it(like an educational tour or something or to buy heirloom seeds). Anyway, if this is possible please let me know. Please do not take off points for spelling and punctuation as I am not a writer and these are not my strong points. my email address is or check out my family blog at

  5. I am from Michigan and recently came out to Utah and Idaho to bring my daughter out to school. While there I picked up your book, Forgotten Skills, it was Awesome! I loved it! I have a very deep desire to become self-sufficient and this book definitely spoke to that desire. I would definitely come to your seed-saving classes or any other classes you offered if I lived there(which is another one of my wants)but seeing that don't and it is too far to commute, I was wondering if you offer any online classes? I am a novice gardener at best but each year I try again so any information is great. And I'm looking forward to the Yeast Recipe Book. If you would email me back I'd appreciate Thank you