Guy Fletcher in the potato field. What he robs, becomes food right away.

Self-Sufficient Living: From The Garden To The Pot On The table

We all know that healthy nutrition is important. However, „healthy“ is a matter of definition. The Fletchers eat almost exclusively organic food. I spent two weeks with this inspiring and special family.

The Fletchers are a family that deeply impressed and inspired me. That made me question things. How we live (together), how we feed ourselves, what we believe in or not. The Fletchers, they‘re Nadine, Guy and their two teenagers Gabriel and Paul, live somewhere in the flat country of Alberta. The place, where you know in advance how the weather will be in two days, because you can see so far. A place, where in July we sat at five degrees in front of the fireplace one day and the next at 27 degrees in the sun. The small family farm is a 15 minutes drive from the nearest larger city. And if not absolutely necessary, mother Nadine doesn‘t go there more often than once a week. Mostly, it is not necessary: The family lives almost completely self-sufficient. They only buy what they can‘t grow themselves or is too expensive to manufacture. This has fundamentally changed the lives of the two sons.

„Your children will never speak,“ the doctors had assured Nadine and Guy. Back then, Gabriel and Paul were about three years old. Autism was the diagnosis and for the parents also the explanation why their children didn’t speak. Nadine Fletcher was not satisfied with the testimony of the doctors. Her children, that was clear, would be able to speak. From one day to the next she changed the diet of the family. Did it accomplish anything? Well, Gabriel and Paul talked my ear off. 😉 In Gabriel, the developmental disorder is no longer detectable.

Industrially manufactured foods – influence on our body?

This sounds like a story you might see on TV. A kind of miracle cure. And of course, nobody can say one hundred percent that only the change in diet had an effect on the development of the two boys. But it’s something to think about. Also, considering the story of Rheanne, Nadine’s friend’s daughter. As a child, the now almost 20-year-old had a tumor in her leg. Incurable, the doctors said. And indeed, no one has survived this type of cancer so far – despite amputation. Also Rheanne was amputated one leg. But she survived. Her mother had also switched to organic nutrition, even developed her own soaps with only natural ingredients. I met mother and daughter. The doctors in Rheanne’s body haven’t found any more cancer cells. Coincidence? Or do industrially manufactured products have so much influence on our body?

Cooking without industrial salt and sugar

Freshly harvested young beets.
Freshly harvested young beets.

I will not be able to prove this scientifically or to answer this question. But I myself have come to enjoy Nadine’s kitchen. After two weeks with the Fletchers, my skin was as good as it had last been in my childhood days. And also my stomach was happy. I felt an improve of well.being. Nadine uses organic foods only. She cooks completely without additional salt. Instead of refined sugar she substitute products such as honey from their own production or maple syrup, almost all fruits and vegetables come from their own garden. Most o fit comes out of the garden onto the table. Nadine preserves food by canning and freezing it to use it in winter. Her jars full of good things fill a whole basement room and several freezers.

Guy and Paul inspect the beehives to make sure the bees and their queen are fine.
Guy and Paul inspect the beehives to make sure the bees and their queen are fine.

The family takes care of seventy chickens in the summer and butchers them in late summer. Eggs also come from their own chickens, which also ensure that the compost in a short time turns into good soil. The soil is fertilizer for the fruit and vegetable garden.

The family owns two lambs, too. They will be butchered by the end of the season, too. Several beehives provide the family with honey. Instead of wheat products, Nadine uses spelt or einkorn. She makes her own toothpaste and lip balm, uses her friend’s organic soap. The parents teach their two sons at home – mostly in winter, when there is not much to do in the garden. That’s what farm children’s lif is like. The 13-year-old Paul is currently completing a university online course on bugs. To him, they are particularly fascinating.

Farm life sets the annual rhythm

Gabriel and Paul in front of the barn. Here they pause during their evening chores.
Gabriel and Paul in front of the barn. Here they pause during their evening chores.

Life on their small farm sets the annual rhythm for the family. At the end of August, the first fruits and vegetables are ripe, at that time they alos butcher the chickens. September is characterized by harvesting and canning. The guys provide firewood for the fireplace and clean the chimney. In October, the sheep are butchered, the family expects the first snow and everything is ready for the winter: they wrap beehives, winterize plants, provide barns and stables with fresh straw, so that the animals are prepared for the cold season. Minus 30 to minus 50 degrees Celsius and a few meters of snow are not uncommon in Alberta – especially because of its short distance to the Rocky Mountains. In case of power outages – which happens in storms in summer and snow in the winter quite often – Nadine and Guy take advantage of their outdoor kitchen. An outdoor compost toilet is currently under construction so that the family will soon be nearly self-sufficient.

For me, the two weeks with the Fletchers were a present. I’ve learned more at this time than in my entire three months as a wwoofer. About which vegetables are best planted next to others so that snails stay away, how bee colonies work and how they are maintained, how leftover food quickly becomes compost or how to build a compost toilet.

I need a big freezer

Especially in terms of nutrition and food, the family has inspired me. In my kitchen there has been no wheat flour for some years, almost no dairy products, and I use sugar only where it is absolutely necessary (and if the craving for chocolate is too big …). Whenever possible, I buy regional organic food. And seasonal shopping is a matter of course for me – with me there are no strawberries in winter. Nadine has given me so much knowledge, ideas and recipes in this regard. I‘m already looking forward to trying all this after I finish traveling. I won‘t have my own garden with vegetables and chickens in the near future. But I have to find a place for a freezer and preserves. After two weeks with the Fletchers, my skin was as good as it had last been in my childhood days. And also my stomach was happy.

Cozy atmosphere around the campfire.
Cozy atmosphere around the campfire.

It wasn’t just about nutrition. Often Nadine, Guy and I sat together for a long time in the evening and exchanged intensively on a spiritual and very personal level. There wasn‘t one day I didn‘t laugh tears – especially Paul and Guy have a great humor. 😀 Gabriel and I knitted together. And then there were the family dogs Sasha and Shylo – both huge and cuddly like polar bears. I like to think back to campfire evenings, hilarious family stories, Guy’s stories of his adventurous journeys through Africa.

„There is always a place for you at our table“

A farewell photo with the Fletchers: Gabriel, Nadine, Guy and Paul (from left).
A farewell photo with the Fletchers: Gabriel, Nadine, Guy and Paul (from left).

„There’s always at seat for you at our table,“ Guy said when I left. This didn‘t make saying farewell to the Canadian family easier. I‘m sure that this is just a temporary separation. Nadine and I exchange information almost every week. And so I’m still kind of along the way when the family harvests and processes over a hundred kilos of tomatoes. Thanks, for this wonderful experience, dear Fletchers.

This is just part of my experience with the Fletchers. More stories to follow.

Bedtime: Gabriel locks up the chickens for the night.
Bedtime: Gabriel locks up the chickens for the night.
Nadine picks chamomile flowers. From this she makes teas and salves.
Nadine picks chamomile flowers. From this she makes teas and salves.
Newly hatched.
Newly hatched.
Sunsets of this kind are common in Alberta.
Sunsets of this kind are common in Alberta.
A look in the vegetable garden.
A look in the vegetable garden.
Wanna cuddle? In summer there were 16 baby cats to feed. An exceptional state for the Fletchers.
Wanna cuddle? In summer there were 16 baby cats to feed. An exceptional state for the Fletchers.
Cuddles for farm dog Sasha. Never use the word "treat" around him. For that he'll even ignore moose and coyotes.
Cuddles for farm dog Sasha. Never use the word “treat” around him. For that he’ll even ignore moose and coyotes.

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