Welcome to my many new readers. One letter in particular got me thinking. I write a lot about gardening as though it’s a given that we all raise food when, obviously, not everyone does. Not growing food makes it even more important to support your local food shed by buying local food sold by local distributors because if the delivery system breaks down, you don’t have another safety net. It is even more important that you learn to preserve food in season so you are assured of a safe, dependable food supply. I realize those are just empty words without a plan for doing it so I have decided to come up with a week-by week, then month-by-month plan to address those folk who are just getting started and really need a roadmap.
Today: October is the month of root crops. Potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips and onions are all abundant and cheap right now. Check out farmer’s markets, farm stands and co-ops for the best prices on these vegetables in bulk. You will need a place to store them and know how to cook them, especially if your family is not familiar with the delights of beets. Storey has some great little booklets that will give the basics but a good purchase is Andrea Chessman’s “Recipes from the Root Cellar” . If you can’t afford it, get it from your library and copy the recipes you most want to try or go in on a copy with a friend. Each week, buy roots to eat and roots to store. Make a day of apple picking and bring home a few bushels of apples and pears. Late varieties store well in a cold, damp spot. Make some apple sauce and can a few batches. Get your partner and kids involved in the process. Dried beans are in season too and you need to eat them at least once a week. Bought in bulk, they are cheap and nutritious and make a beautiful statement grouped on a shelf in mason jars. Make two meals a week completely from local food. Commit to one breakfast a week that is made from scratch. Oatmeal with fruit and honey, granola or pancakes are all easy and inexpensive and can all be made with stored food.
Week one: Get a camp stove and some propane cylinders so you can cook dinner if the power goes out.
Week two: Get two hurricane lamps, lamp oil and a box of matches.
Week three: Make sure you have enough heavy clothing to keep warm if your heat went out.
Week four: Get a case of mason jars to begin you food preservation stash.
Thought you were done? Not a chance! You also have to take one room a week and get it cleaned and organized. Sell the clutter if you can and put the money in a food storage/prepping box. Get one room at a time “ready”. The kitchen is a good place to start. Get rid of the fondu pot, the bread machine, the chocolate fountain, all of the those space hogs that you never use. Use the space and money to buy a water bath canner and some canning jars, a manual can opener and some bulk purchased oats.
Put out some feelers and have some people over to talk about the issues that you are worrying may become problems. Read a book together and discuss it or watch a documentary. Order some seed catalogs. I know. You have a black thumb but I’m not suggesting you grow a huge garden. I am just suggesting that you put in some berry bushes and maybe a fruit tree or two. Right now you are just looking and getting inspired. But if you like, you could dig up a tiny bit of yard and put some garlic in and maybe some parsnips. Both will grow over the winter and reward you with a crop next summer.
This is not about dropping a lot of money but about changing the way you live. Taken in small chunks it can be fun and provide your family with some good quality time together. The money that you normally spend on meals out or movies or expensive entertainment and the time that used to be wasted in front of the TV can be spent on other more productive activities. Green thumbs are created with practice and every journey starts in your imagination.