Alberta farm family eating like pioneers for a year

Inspired by her homesteading greatgrandfather, Shannon Ruzicka and her family are not buying food for year and only eating what they grow.

Ruzicka family living off land, not buying food for 12 months

Inspired by her homesteading great-grandfather, Shannon Ruzicka and her family are only eating what they grow. (Nature's Green Acres/Facebook)

This story was originally published on Nov. 27, 2015

It's been three months since Shannon Ruzicka has lined up at a Tim Hortons.

"I can't go buy coffee. People have been giving us coffee, very graciously."

Ruzicka, who lives in Viking, Alta., also can't buy bread, milk, cheese, vegetables or any prepared foods — because pioneers didn't shop at grocery stores.

For an entire year, Ruzicka, her husband, Danny, and their three young children won't be buying any food. Instead, they will be eating like Ruzicka's great-grandfather, who set up a homestead on the Canadian Prairies in the early 1900s.

Shannon Ruzicka and her family on their farm in Viking, Alta. (Submitted by Shannon Ruzicka)

"Why is it with all of our modern conveniences we can't even put up our own food for year? We've got farmers everywhere growing amazing things," she said.

The family members are growing and baking everything that goes into their bellies.

When they began the challenge on Aug. 15, they were already raising hogs and cows on their farm. But you can't just live off bacon and beef.

"I didn't have a hot clue what I was doing," said Ruzicka.

"How do you make cheese without rennet or buying culture? Or if your sourdough dies you've got no bread until you can revive your sourdough starter. Cause we can't buy yeast."

She says she's learned how to make cheese without rennet and her kids are getting used to not having white, fluffy bread.

Ruzicka still has baking soda and baking powder in the pantry, but won't use it.

"There's a few things like that that I'm just pushing to the back of the pantry. Like I've got chocolate in there that I'm not eating."

Rules of pioneering

The family gets milk from a cow, eggs from their chickens and froze heaps of their summer berries and vegetables.

They won't eat out at restaurants, but will accept a dinner invitation so long as it's at someone's house. And when the children's friends have birthday parties, they are allowed to eat junk food.

"I say, 'Knock your socks off, eat every Cheetoh you can possible find,'" said Ruzicka.

The family also barters from their neighbours and friends.

Ruzicka hasn't tackled casking wine yet, but accidentally made beer once when her sourdough went a little crazy on her.

"I love good, strong old cheeses and great wines and whiskies. I love the rich, amazing foods. So, it's certainly saved a lot on wine and cheeses!"

She says there are just two items the family will be buying throughout the year: salt, which is necessary for preserving food, and sugar "for morale," said Ruzicka.

She says they source their sugar and salt from sustainable, Canadian companies.

Foraging forward

When the challenge is over in August 2016, the family isn't just going to throw away everything they've learned.

"I am hoping that it will just become so part of our lives that we'll just, for the most part, carry on. I mean I am going to certainly send Danny out for pizza here and there next year and certainly grab a bottle of wine or two," said Ruzicka.

"We don't need to rely on any system for sustainability and happiness."


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