An Introduction to the Grow Your Own Challenge 2016

This entry is part [part not set] of 31 in the series Grow Your Own Challenge

An Introduction to the Grow Your Own Challenge 2016

The real reason we are growing all of our own produce for the year. 

straw bales

Last weekend I laid out my straw bales for our huge garden project. We’re growing all of our own produce this year. I happen to live on a path and being a shameless promoter of the blog, I placed the bales in a garden to make it abundantly obvious to all the walkers-by that we are doing a big project. No less than several people stopped and walked into my yard to check it out.  The overwhelming response was, “Wow! that’s a lot of garden” and “do you plant in the bales” and “you can really feed your whole family with your garden?” Yes. Yes. and Yes. Follow this series, or read the index page to the project and I’ll show you how. But why? That is a little more interesting question. I address that below:

 ***This is an urgent message … I need you help to spread the word***

First, we’re cool. This is cool. It was a natural fit. Join us and share this so you can be flipping-grilled-cheese-with-a-storm-trooper-spatula-cool too.

storm trooper spatula

The second reason: Zombies. Did you know that zombies are pretty much guaranteed to rise from the dead and start overthrowing the world by this next winter? Obviously this is true. It was on TV and the internet. That’s like two independent sources. Plus with the field of candidates on both sides this election year, I don’t really feel like it’s a stretch to say it might be the end of the world. I don’t care if scientists say zombies are an impossibility. I’m getting prepared.

The third reason: Kids love vegetables they grow. For the sake of future generations, we are also getting our kids involved … because … well…    Forget it.  I know better. My kids still won’t eat vegetables even if they grow them. So, truly it’s because it’s a better story for the blog if the kids help. #becausechildren #teachthemyoung and stuff.

The fourth reason: I can beat a 7% stock market return in a few short months. Seriously. I explain how a few dollars of seeds will turn into hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars of produce. Here’s a hint, I will be buying half of a cow because the city I live in doesn’t think cows are appropriate for the suburbs. I disagree. But it wasn’t a battle I want to fight. Instead, I’m getting half of a cow for about $500 butchered and everything. Adding in 4 chickens for about $20 including their feed that will lay eggs year round, and two bee hives for $110 each with with about $500 in total expenses for my garden and I will be cutting every grocery bill I have by about 70% for the next year. That bottle of pasta sauce you just bought for $3.45? I just made it on my own and it cost $0.14. Get it? I literally will only buy grains and fruit from the grocer now. In truth, I will save more money than is allowed by the IRS to go into a IRA each year and that means I will retire a millionaire. Later suckers… Join me, eat better, save money, and travel around the world in retirement. Plus you will know how to do stuff; a trait that is severely lacking these days.


To protect my brains from the soon-to-be apocalypse, my blog is in the midst of a slow launch of our 2016 Grow Your Own Challenge where my family will be growing as much of our produce as possible. We had so much luck with our straw bale gardens last year, we leveled-up this year to about 110 bales.

What exactly will we be producing? Well, first was the maple syrup.

boiling sap

It was incredible. But I die a little inside every time I see my kids pour that liquid gold onto an Eggo Waffle. These articles are already done. Read how to collect sap, how to make syrup, and then our thoughts on the project. Read these and then you will know how to make your own maple syrup. Next time you go to the farmers market, you can tell the guy selling syrup that you can’t believe it isn’t $80 a quart.

In more ridiculousness, we will also be growing at a minimum 570 pounds of tomatoes (read why here) which will have to be canned and turned into ketchup, salsa, marinara, pizza sauce, and most importantly bloody Mary mix because if I see any zombies wandering around my back yard I going to need a good bloody Mary. This should get my family through about 12 months.

Plus, my kids eat pickles like they are going out of style. We EASILY go through 52+ quarts of pickles a year. So, now I have to have cucumbers, dill, and garlic to the garden. If I want any, I have to make some spicy … bring on the jalapano plants  (here’s what we started so far by seed). Rounding out the rest of the garden, we will have a ton of herbs, beans, peas, squash, watermelon, and much much more.  But you will have to start following us to get that information. 

So, would you please please please follow along with us this year? I promise to keep writing snarky posts and teaching you how we are feeding my family right out of our backyard. I think everybody should protect themselves from the zombies and all kids should grow vegetables they won’t eat. It just seems right. 

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Chris Ashbach is one of the founders of Dan330. Chris is a pilot and avid outdoorsman who loves fishing, hunting, camping, and exploring. He loves taking kids (especially his own) on trips to share his passion of the outdoors. Chris is also a gardener, volunteers at Let's Go Fishing, and teaches Sunday school. Chris holds a MA in Organizational Leadership and is faculty at a local university in Minnesota; teaching undergraduate business classes.