We celebrated the day with a favorite breakfast. He spent the better part of the day working in the workshop carving wood. We made cake and a favorite dinner. He received his own coffee cup, a hair brush and an art class at the Maine College of Art. He had wanted to take a metalsmithing class this spring but when he realized it was only jewelry making and not his desired blacksmithing, he opted for a digital photography class. We also marked the occasion with a shaving lesson. I have pictures of his face with shaving cream but I promised not to post them online;)
Anyway, the last element to our food storage is fruits and veggies. We grow a lot of the veggies that we eat. Whatever we don't grow, we purchase at our local farmstand, farmer's market or directly from the farm. We also make use of many of the U-pick farms that are available in our area.
And then, we preserve it all. Along the side bar is a list of all we preserved this past year. Looking at the list seems quite impressive. A vast amount of food was squirreled away. The amount of work and effort that goes into this endeavor is part of the seasonality of the life we have chosen to live. But I'll be honest. We are finding that it may not be enough to get us through the winter and we may have to start buying produce by the end of February.
Last growing season was a hard one in the Northeast. We had nearly a month and a half of rain from early June to mid July. Early on, there were already fears that there was late blight in the air; brought to us by tomato plants imported by Walmart and given just the right moist conditions to flourish. For us, this meant that we had to harvest our potato plants a month early to avoid losing the crop. We ended up with 80lbs of small spuds. This also meant that, although I was able to have an ample quantity of tomatoes on the vine , I was only able to can a couple of batches of salsa. The rest of the crop were blighted before they were ripe. Another staple food for us, winter squash, faired no better.
So we bought several cases of tomatoes at our local farmstand. We also bought corn because it was too cool and wet to get ours to grow. Buying from the farmstand is helpful but given the expense, we did not put up the same quantities that we did the prior year. The same goes for berries. I was able to pick about seven quarts of raspberries and blackberries from our own land. But the field where we had picked blueberries the prior year was not open this past summer, so we were only able to get our berries from a more expensive source.
So this is where we are right now; the peas are gone. There is a half a quart of corn. Still a few weeks worth of broccoli and about half a dozen quarts of frozen green beans. We have yet to touch the frozen rhubarb. There is a local farm still selling apples. We have gone through fresh apples but I can still get some of these and make crisp with the rhubarb.
There are plenty of pickled carrots, beans and beets. Only 2 quarts of pureed tomatoes, 4 pints of salsa. Dehydrated apples are nearly gone. But we have plenty of dehydrated kale and zucchini. I have been using the kale in bread. I re-hydrate the zuke for pizzas and soup. The onions and leeks are gone but we still have garlic.
We still have some canned chicken soup and spuds. But the fresh spuds are near their end.
There are parsnips and jerusalem artichokes in the ground. We had a big rain last night so I may go out to the garden to see if some can be dug up. There are beet greens under row cover and plastic tunnels also. So I will clean the snow off of these to see if they can be perked up a bit before we come out of our January thaw.
I've been reflecting about what I would do if I really had no option but to rely solely on the food I put up. Seeing the bottom of the freezer in January can be a little unsettling. We are lucky to have the choice between working on this endeavor of food preservation or going to the grocery store/farmer's market. My thoughts turn to possible future scenarios where I may need to be more dependent on the fruits of my own labors because there are shortages due to peak oil or food price inflation puts many foods out of the reach of my pocket book. And then there is the whim of the weather and how extremes in weather last summer greatly impacted my ability to get ample crops from my own ground.
I haven't got any answers yet. I am still thinking on this but I think that building up skills in wildcraft will be necessary.
I will next address how we manage our food storage, minimizing food waste.