Grokfeast in Virginia

On September 11th I asked Mark’s Daily apple readers to host a Grokfeast (a picnic/party celebrating the Primal lifestyle) and to send me the results. The following is one of 14 amazing submissions, the best of which will win an entire cow courtesy of US Wellness.

Our family lives in Highland County Virginia in one of the least populated counties east of the Mississippi River with a population of 2,321. We live on the Jackson River on acreage that provides us with a plethora of Primal foods that we grow, hunt and gather. We provide 90% of our own food which includes grass fed beef, pork, venison, and trout. Our garden is a great producer of all the vegetables one can imagine as well as a fruit orchard that includes 10 varieties of apples, 3 varieties of pears, concord grapes, peaches, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, walnuts, butternuts and more. We “put up” this wonderful harvest by either canning or freezing. Most recently we have purchased a greenhouse and 4 IBC containers to install an aquaponic system. We intend to raise tilapia and shrimp as well as grow fruits and vegetables. No more weeding! This project will be completed by spring.

When I read the challenge I looked up from the computer, smiled at my wife and said,” Party next week”. She knows what that means, a gathering of friends and family at the river on the property that we call Camp Heavenly. Five years ago I began to clear this area as I enjoy sleeping at the river. When my then 8 year old daughter Chloe saw this cleared spot she told me “Oh, Daddy, it’s like Heaven…I will name it Camp Heavenly!” Since that time we have added places to sleep, a campfire, swimming area, small water fall and of course my smoker and grill. This year we also added a composting toilet and gravity fed shower. For my daughters 13th birthday this past May my daughter and I remodeled and ambulance body, added a deck and kitchen area. The ambulance now makes a cozy sleeping quarter for three. We enjoy spending the summers down at Camp Heavenly which sits a couple of acres from the house at the river. No man made noise to contend with, just a blanket of stars above and the noise made by all the critters that reside with us.

We decided that for Grokfeast 2012 we would invite a group of my daughter’s best friends (I call them the Girl Gang) and a couple of our friends as well. Our feast preparation began the night before the actual gathering. My daughter spent the night at the river with me as we decided we would smoke two pork butts, one chicken, and a slab of salmon. We made our rub we call “Magic Dust” and then we coated the pork completely. Onto the smoker it goes. We awake every hour to check the fire and to spray apple vinegar on the exterior of the butts. We do this for sixteen hours on average. When needed we add apple wood to the fire from our orchard that we reserve for these occasions.

The following morning  I prepared a Primal breakfast for my daughter Chloe and me that consisted of percolated coffee, farm fresh eggs, home raised sausage and tomatoes from our river tomato garden. It was a very peaceful beginning to the day just listening to the birds and the running river water. My son Giancarlo came to the river and he and his sister decided to clean the chairs and the table. My wife Victoria was at the house preparing the rest of the meal.

At 3 pm our guests arrived. Chloe and her friends are on the volleyball and basketball team at the local high school. They are Allison, Chelsea, and Emily. Allison’s parents Becky and Greg attended as well as their oldest daughter Ellen who was recuperating from a knee surgery. Our tribe includes my father-in-law Victor, my wife Victoria, my children Chloe and Giancarlo and me, Patrick. We all live together, the way it should be we feel.

The kids decided to play “kitchen volleyball” which involves hitting the ball over the kitchen table much to my consternation. After this lazy endeavor and much laughter and the occasional missed ball which banged around the kitchen, I gave my daughter “the LOOK”. She understood the primal facial expression and moved the game to the field. The kids and I shucked our shoes for the rest of the evening. The Groks shared stories and gossip and nursed the pork, chicken and the salmon to perfection. We also worked to prepare the feast table.

The Feast

The menu for the main feast included the meat described above and:

  • Canned beets
  • Red and white Sauerkraut
  • Mexican Spicy carrots
  • Chow- Chow
  • Tomatoes with Red Onions and balsamic vinegar
  • Steamed Green Beans
  • Kim-Chee
  • Sweet potatoes

Our dessert included:

  • Dried Pears
  • Dried Apples
  • Primal Bark
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Honey
  • Red wine and coffee

What a feast it was! Everyone was pleased and cleaned their plates. During the feasting we discussed Primal living and what it has done for us.

The children moved up to the basketball court we installed this year and enjoyed a vigorous workout while the old Groks “hung out” discussing the day.

In February of 2012 I was a 51 year old very out of shape male. I weighed 263 pounds and am 6’1”. My wife has Hashimotos and low thyroid condition and was researching the internet when she discovered your site. When she announced we were going Primal I looked at my father-in-law and said “I hope you like bananas because Victoria says we are going Primate.” We joked about the primate diet for a few days until we received PB- 21 day Total Body Transformation and PB Quick and Easy Meals.

I read quite a bit so I moved these two books to the top of the schedule. They were a very easy read and I became very excited about the plan because IT MADE TOTAL SENSE! I was always a very active basketball and long distance runner until my 30’s and could relate to your story. We moved from Virginia to Florida for 15 years and I would tell Victoria I was convinced that grocery store and restaurant food was killing us. I ballooned from 190 to 263 and stopped sports as it was very hot in Central Florida. We used to always joke that I could not gain weight but that sure changed when I changed the food that I was eating. We moved back last year as my father-in-law has Parkinson’s and we ready to go home to a healthy lifestyle and food intake regimen again. And that’s just it. When we discovered your plan I realized this is not a “diet”, this is a “lifestyle”. We have shared our story with our friends with the hope that they will become Primal and spread the Primal word. I am now playing basketball with the high schoolers on open gym night twice a week and currently weigh 217 lbs.

The children returned and we started a large fire and told more stories and ultimately the kids insisted on listening to a Jeff Foxworthy CD “You might be a Redneck”.  Of course, healthy laughter ensued and we washed it all down with the coffee, wine, chocolate bark and dried fruits.

As the heavy dew settled on us we decided to call it a night. Our guests left and we retired for the evening for a long satisfying sleep.

The next morning I went back to Camp Heavenly to clean up and prepare the camp for a big rain storm that was predicted for later in the afternoon. As I sat by the river I counted my blessings, my wonderful family and the discovery of a healthy wholesome lifestyle. This is a legacy that will be passed to my children and Mark, thank you for your commitment and for inviting us to participate in Grokfeast 2012.

Here is our recipe for Kim Chee:


  • 1 (2-pound) cabbage
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • About 12 cups cold water, plus more as needed
  • 5 large radish, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 6  medium scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces (use all parts)
  • 1/3 cup Korean red pepper powder
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (optional)
  • 1/4 cup peeled and minced fresh ginger (from about a 2-ounce piece)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves (from 6 to 8 medium cloves)
  • 2  teaspoons Korean salted shrimp, minced (optional)


Cut the cabbage to the size that your family enjoys. In a large bowl add the cabbage, kosher salt and water. Cover with a clean cloth and set to the side on the counter for 24 hours. After 24 hours drain the water and rinse the cabbage and allow to drain. Prepare the other ingredients and place in large bowl. Add the cabbage. I recommend using plastic gloves for the next step. Mix with your hands well making sure you evenly coat the mixture. Place the mixture in a 2 quart sealable jar. Allow it to sit at room temperature for about one week. Release the gasses from the jar once a day and reseal. This can be enjoyed at room temp or refrigerated. We like room temp so that the fermenting process continues.

The Tribe

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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29 thoughts on “Grokfeast in Virginia”

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  1. I’ll have to admit that my eyes welled up with tears when I came to “As I sat by the river I counted my blessings, my wonderful family and the discovery of a healthy wholesome lifestyle.”

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story!

    1. Is that an ambulance/camper? What a great idea(especially if you’re in a hurry to get to the camp)!

      1. Yes, this is an ambulance body but I removed the gurney and chair that is bolted in. I built a full size bed in it and a bunk that is chained to one wall so we could use it as a camper for this year. I sleep here with my son and daughter or I sleep in my teardrop trailer and one other utility trailer I converted to sleep 4. Victoria really likes porcelain so she prefers to sleep in our home on the hill. I bought this because it will be a root cellar. In an ambulance there are many shelves and sliding doors. I will bury this in spring 2013 below my processing room. I chose to do it this way as it cost much less than building a room below ground. If you want additional info or interior photos, like how to prevent moisture penetration etc you can email me at [email protected]. I did this conversion as I wanted to make it useful until I could use it for it’s real purpose.

  2. When I saw the first photo of you manning the grill and brandishing that hunk o’ pork, I wanted to be there too! Then as I read about your land (and hard work) providing nearly all of your food — WOW. Love the story and really enjoyed the photos. The food looks scrumptious!

  3. It looks like a beautiful and very satisfying life, very modern day Grok. Thanks for sharing (although, I’m really hungry now!) and so glad you discovered and are enjoying the Primal life. How wonderful to be able to supply 90% of your own food yourself!! Did your wife and father-in-law see any improvements in their health issues after going Primal?

    1. Victoria struggles with Hashimotos and after walking with me many miles actually gained weight even though she is Primal. I tell her I do not care about that as she is healthier and living longer is what is more important to me.

      1. Patrick: It may help your wife’s thyroid issue if you got a hold of a couple books by my doctor, David Brownstein, M.D. He is a fabulous holistic physician in Michigan and is known far and wide for his work with thyroid problems, and iodine supplementation. He has a book on thyroid, and one on iodine which he uses for many patients after testing their levels. My thyroid problem went away after following his protocol. He recommends that anyone should at the very least minimize grain intake. He is pretty much a “paleo” doctor.

    2. Oh, and my father-in-law, Victoria has done a wonderful job of researching the meds all the doctors had prescribed for him. She has eleiminated much and now manages the rest very carefully. This has resulted in less shakes and his memeory is much better. He is active in the garden, just helped me stack 4 cords of wood and drives 3 hours twice a week to square dance. He dances every dance and is quite a hit with the ladies. A real stud!

  4. This looks like a perfect day! What a beautiful setting. Thanks for sharing your feast with us.

  5. Totally jealous and wish I had place like that to call my own. Awesome!

  6. WOW is all I can say. Your lifestyle sounds amazing! I wish I had it, not saying I don’t enjoy mine (and I do get wild meat regulary and have little veggie patch) but I would love to live the statainable way your living and have my own little peace of heaven simalar to yours. It’s great your whole family got into it too, I think that certainly makes things easier.

  7. Wow, Nice job all around. In the second to last picture, is that a plastic couch? Go Hoos.

    1. Yes, the couch and the single chair are from Kartel in Italy. They are blow molded in one peice. I am half an American-Italian.

  8. Great stuff I have family in highland county (weekend hunt camp) can’t believe I saw this! Small world great weight loss and great feast!

  9. Wow Patrick, you are an inspiration, certainly a modern day version of GROK. I was moved after reading your story. I hope someday my family manages to live as sustainably, with as little carbon footprint as yours.
    Good luck with everything.

  10. What a great story, and thank you for sharing. Your family definitely are a great example of how necessary it is to escape the toxicity of the modern world (toxic food, toxic chemicals, toxic environment). You’ll all be better for it. Grok on!

  11. You definitely are grokking it! Keep it up! I’d love to checkout your place while on my epic adventure through the country. I can’t wait for Virginia in the Summer for Polyface Farms. I’ll have to checkout your place too if anyone is really welcome!

  12. Great article Patrick!! Glad to see you are living the life your way! Looks like beautiful country surrounding you. Little upset I didnt get an invite to the party though.. haha!