by Jenny Brown

“When people ask us what we do, the response is usually “That’s a lot of work!”

Yes, it is. It’s more work than we’ve ever experienced. In fact, it’s so much work that it has become our lifestyle because we must constantly tend to it.

Yet, there is something extraordinary about sitting down to a meal produced from your own land.

Yes, the flavor is better and the nutrition is higher…these are two reasons alone to grow your own food.

But the benefits do not stop there.

There is an intangible quality from food grown or raised by your own hands that gives you a far greater appreciation and thankfulness for the food set before you.

We may work like peasants but we eat like kings!

When we take the time to create a meal together and sit down to dine together, that is when we fully reap our harvest and the full picture of what we are accomplishing comes to light. Tonight was one of those meals…

Hungry, after an enjoyable afternoon at the river and relaxing in a camp chair thumbing through my old  ‘Gourmet’ magazines, I came home with renewed cooking vigor. I sent my daughter out to the garden for a handful of basil leaves and had two of my boys help clear their mess off the dining room table and set it. My husband was out in the strawberry patch with a big bowl, gleaning the berries still remaining after our fifth picking.

My 13 year old son, who is a natural ‘foodie’, voluntarily went to work on a cherry crisp with the pie cherries he had previously picked and pitted from our towering cherry tree.

It was late for starting dinner; in order for this hungry family of six to get a good meal on the table before bedtime, it would require a group effort.

My husband had already marinated several pounds of lamb the night before…

(article continues after recipes)

Garlic-Oregano Grilled Lamb

This marinade will turn any cut of grass-fed lamb into a fine dish…we’ve even had excellent results with mutton!  And yes, grass-fed truly makes all the difference.

4-5 pounds grass-fed lamb, cut in strips

For Marinade:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

large head of garlic – 10-12 cloves (you really cannot have too much garlic!)

2 Tablespoons dried oregano (crushed fine between palms) or 6 Tablespoons fresh (finely chopped)

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Marinade lamb for several hours (I prefer to let it set over-night). Barbecue until medium-rare (125-128°). The key is not to over-cook the meat.

Creamy Tortellinia simple but superb summer dish that can be ‘thrown’ together in minutes

Boil desired amount of cheese tortellini until al dente, drain, and place in large bowl

Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes* (You can make your own! see note below)

plenty of fresh basil

salt and pepper

and enough fresh cream to give the tortellini liquid to simmer in.

Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large skillet. When oil is hot, add the tortellini mixture and simmer covered for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until tortellini is done.

Top with fresh grated Parmesan.

One big bowl of fresh strawberries – No recipe needed!

And for dessert…my son’s pie-cherry crisp served a la mode (He followed the basic ‘Fruit Crisp’ recipe from Cooks Illustrated ‘Best Recipe’).  You can see by the ice-cream that it already had a bite taken from it before I got the photograph! The excuse? It was melting too quickly 🙂

So, is it really worth all the work?

There are days I visit that question, especially when I begin to compare our amount of leisure time with other families…

But, when I see in my kids glimpses of  true appreciation and understanding of our efforts,

when I see the good work ethics being developed in them that will carry through the rest of their lives (‘being developed’ is the key phrase here),

when I consider the experience and education we have all gained from living self-sufficiently,

when we can place before us nutritious food fit for kings right here off our own land and often times have enough to share with others…I give an unwavering “Yes!”


* Making your own sun-dried tomatoes is easy. I use cherry tomatoes which I always have an over-abundance of and they give a wonderfully sweet flavor. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place them on a clean tarp or screen. Cover them with mesh or other material that permits light but keeps the flies away (last year I used the safety-netting that I saved from our old trampoline!). Leave them in direct sun for a few days until they are rubbery clear to the center but no longer damp – you do not want them crispy dry. Store them  in a canning jar(s) with a used canning lid and ring. For long-term storage, place in the freezer. If using within a month or so, pour olive oil over the tomatoes to cover and store in the fridge. This will soften the tomatoes and the sun-dried tomato flavored olive oil is an additional treat.

Sun-dried tomatoes in Olive Oil

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2 Responses to “Growing and Raising Your Own Food – Is It Really Worth the Work?”

  1. Nicole Says:

    I realize this is a funny place to ask a goat feed question but I couldn’t find any other post that pertained to that topic. I am buying our first two goats in the next week and I am looking into what to feed them. The current owner has them( all genders and pregnant or not) on grass hay, and 2-4 lbs of regular ol Purina goat chow.No mineral or salt supplementation.The goats look okay to me and they eat well and she rarely has any that get sick. I would like to get the best milk and have the healthiest animals and would like to do it as organically as possible.I have found grass/alfalfa mix and I purchased Hoegger mineral mix and wormer/toner.What grains Do YOU think I need to feed to animals who are not used to this rich of a diet?

  2. Jenny Says:

    Hi Nicole,
    I personally would not recommend buying goats from someone who has not fed them any salt or mineral supplementation. That would be a big red flag to me. You could be asking for problems down the road that may not be visible right now (illness and potentially disease caused from lack of needed nutrition, trouble w/ pregnancy & kidding). Minerals such as selenium and copper are essential for your goat’s health and if the region is low in any one of the needed minerals (which would mean low quantities in their pasture grasses/local hay), your goats and their offspring will suffer if it is not supplemented. As far as feed, I explain how we feed our goats in our video, A Day in the Life of Dairy Goats – Part 4 . Here is a great link to help you decide what and how much to feed your goats if you plan to mix it yourself or just want something to compare various feeds to: What ever grains you decide to feed your goats, be sure to introduce the new feed very slowly to give the bacteria in their rumen time to adjust.

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