Sunday, January 15, 2012

So What Is This Whole Challenge About?

Welcome, new viewers, to our website. I don't know how you made it here but I am glad you found your way. If you have been reading along for the past 2+ years, well, read along in case I say something funny. This is the re-cap episode.

A little over two years ago, I was sitting around mulling crazy ideas in my head. I have a lot of those. After thinking about this concept for a long time I mentioned it to my wife, my pillar of reality. The idea was to try to live 'off the land' for a month.

'Why not try a week first?' The voice of reason asked.  A good point, I thought, why not try a week first. I mentioned the idea to a few friends and family members, and the first 'Starting From Scratch Challenge' was born. It was announced in late fall/early winter, and participants had until the following July to save up as much food as they could by hunting, fishing, farming, or foraging.

It was miserable. I had taken a Canada goose and a squirrel over the hunting season and found some abandoned corn fields, but for the most part all we had available were earlier season vegetables. We had a few potatoes and tomatoes but the main harvest of those was a few months away. We had a distinct lack of grains for certain. Cheating was allowed but participants were supposed to disclose any indiscretions., a few of us managed to make it through without cheating or deviating; Therese, my mom, and myself (Mark) among them.

When it ended, I vowed I would never do it again.  Following the first challenge I had cravings for certain foods, pizza, chicken wings, coffee, hamburgers, beer, cheese, everything we went without. Everything I craved was a disappointment. I had built these things up to such an ideal that nothing could meet my expectations. Food in reality just isn't that good.

Move forward to that fall - the disappointments of the first challenge have faded. The itch gets to me again, and I suggest this, the second Starting From Scratch Challenge.

The concept is to survive the winter on foods hunted, fished, farmed, or gathered. The rules were as follows, amended as the pre-challenge commenced; participants had 1 year to prepare. Each participant added $10 to their family's pool to buy staples at the store. Salt, vinegar, sugar, yeast, and other ingredients were accessible to settlers, but the bulk of their food was to be harvested by hand. For every day a member of your family cheated in the first challenge, you take a $1 penalty. My wife was interested in the last challenge for 1 meal. We took a $7 penalty and started with $13 for the family. Todd and Kathy each cheated 1 day, they started with $18. Both Sharon and Therese started with $10. Everything else we have saved has been grown in our gardens, hunted or fished at local reservations, or harvested from local woods, or estates of friends and family. We are allowed 1 'party day' exemption, where we can eat and drink whatever we want for the whole day. We also agreed that Sharon's birthday party would warrant an exemption for the duration of our stay in the restaurant that day.

The goal was to be the last survivor, or, in case of more than 1 tenacious participants, anyone who makes it to March 15th is declared the winner(s).

Sharon declared at the beginning that she would not participate past her birthday (1/16.) Sharon made it 1 week - you may think that is easy, audience, but I dare you to try it! I double dare you!

Both the Jacksons decided at Christmas that they weren't going to participate, their in-laws were in town and they weren't going to starve themselves etc et al.

So here we are - 2 weeks in, and 2 participants left. My mom and I persist, though we both know we have less than a month of supplies remaining. You can see our happy faces picture above, our first meal we didn't have to cook ourselves since New Year's Day.

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