- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

ATHOL, Idaho (AP) - Imagine only being able to eat things that grow or live in North Idaho. No going out to eat, no grocery shopping, no spending money on food. The only way to get something you don’t have is bartering for it, but it has to be locally sourced, too.

Josh and Caren Spencer of Athol may not be “living off the land,” but they sure are eating off it.

One week ago the couple started a 30-day challenge inspired by Josh’s mother. On her blog, she has been challenging people to do something extreme or out of the ordinary for 30 days.

Josh suggested to his wife that they eat something natural and locally sourced every day.

“She said, ‘No, we’re going to do something better. We’re going to eat nothing but,’” Josh said.

Three days later the couple started to eat only things that grew in their 20-foot by 60-foot garden, their greenhouse or on their property. They can hunt and fish, but because it’s not hunting season, they’ve been eating a lot of kokanee from Lake Pend Oreille.

Their diets consist of a lot of fish and lettuce and herbs from their garden. They have eggs from their chickens and they forage for berries and mushrooms on their land.

“My wife is making me eat all types of plants,” Josh said. “I don’t want to die in the meantime.”

The hardest part of the challenge, Josh said, was the lack of food. He said they are averaging about 500 to 600 calories per day. As a woodworker, he relies a lot on carbohydrates and salts and sugar. He wants to find a way to make bread or butter.

“We can eat as much as we want,” he said. “We just don’t have any foods stockpiled other than a few things we canned from our garden last year. Our portions are real small.”

Josh said their garden is starting to produce some things, but won’t really have a lot in it for another two or three weeks, by which time the challenge will be over.

“We’re out there every day hoping something has grown in it,” he said.

The hardest part for Caren has been the lack of variety in foods.

“I didn’t think I would get tired of the kokanee so fast,” she said. “Some days you really want something you’re used to eating like a banana, but those don’t grow here.”

The Spencers’ middle child started the challenge with them. After four hours, though, the 13-year-old threw in the towel after realizing he couldn’t put salt on his eggs.

Josh and Caren’s 3-year-old daughter has been another difficult part of this process. She isn’t participating in the challenge, but Josh described it as torture for him when he cooks her a pizza or hot dog and he can’t have any.

One week in, Josh is finding himself very tired with little energy most days. Caren said she feels fine most days and isn’t as hungry as she thought she would be.

“I think he is a little more on edge; the hunger is getting to him more,” she said. “He’s a bigger guy so he needs more calories in his diet than I do. I think the last couple of days have been hard for him.”

Josh said he’s lost 11 pounds since last Saturday when they started their challenge. Caren said she hasn’t weighed herself yet, but is positive she’s lost at least 5 pounds.

Part of the couple’s agreement is they can trade things for food, whether that be labor or other food.

The only red meat they were able to trade for was about 6 pounds of elk and moose from their neighbor. In exchange for the meat they took their neighbor and his family on two fishing trips and are going to help him build his deck next week.

Josh said their neighborhood and community has been really supportive of them. Sometimes they’ve had to graciously turn down food that people bring over for them.

“We have to tell them we can’t accept it but we can do something for them in return,” he said.

Caren has termed their diet as “the pioneer diet,” working for food or hunting, fishing and gathering.

The couple has been keeping track of their meals and recording what the experience is like. Josh’s mom, Karen, will be posting the couple’s journal and video blog on her website, www.smallsteps.website, every Monday for the next four weeks.

Both Josh and Caren expect to stay tough and see the challenge through.

“If we would have prepped for this it would have been a lot easier,” Josh said.

“I thought it would be more fun, more challenging if we just dove right in,” Caren countered. “We’re just hoping we can finish out the 30 days.”

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Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, https://www.cdapress.com

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