We hit the road at the crack of dawn on Saturday to head to Worcester for the winter NOFA conference. Our dear friend, Pepper tagged along as she was presenting a workshop on Micro-dairies. Pepper runs our raw mild CSA. Thank goodness the roads were clear and the traffic light.

The high point of the conference was watching another good friend, Ed Stockman, receive the Person-Of-The-Year award for his work with GMO awareness. It was well-deserved. In addition to running an organic berry farm Ed works tirelessly to educate people about the hazards of GMO food.

I wish I could say that the keynote by John Jeavons, something I was really looking forward to, was fabulous. It was heavily geared toward agriculture in California. As it was about 3 degrees while he was speaking, hearing about citrus and avocados was not really where my interest lay. I expect he had a lot more information at his workshops but the keynote was just not useful and we slipped out early to get lunch.

My workshop didn’t go well at all. I should have know better. I demonstrated canning chili. It takes 90 minutes and, as most of you know, waiting for something to process is about as interesting as watching paint dry. I was still a good 30 minutes from being done when the tiny propane cylinder they gave me to cook with ran dry. They didn’t have another and it was just awful. I brought the chili home and froze it so it wasn’t a complete loss but it felt disorganized and unprofessional.

I did take agood workshop on lacto-fermentation that explained a lot of my problems. I still have some cabbage in the root cellar and I plan to make some kraut later this week. The stuff she gave us to try was delicious. Bruce took a workshop on raising bees using a method called top bar hives. He came away all excited and is planning to give this method a try with one hive this spring. We just ordered our bees and now just need spring.

A lot of the talk at the conference was about resilience. It got me to thinking about what that really means. One dictionary definition refers to things returning to “normal” after a compression but I find another definition more helpful. It says that resilience is the ability to recover or being buoyant. For the many who are struggling with debt or lack of employment, for families what are not able to feed their families without help or who dread the day they have to put gas in the car, the idea of returning to normal may seem foreign. What and whose normal? Buoyancy is different. I see that as a way of adapting to what is rather than hoping for what may never be. I’m going to be looking at my resilience this year. What steps can I take and skills can I cultivate to improve my resilience? We are facing some cuts to our income over the next few years. In the old days I would have been thinking about how to earn more money. Now I’m thinking about how to spend less. I have one idea that I can put in place right now. When we were raising two pigs a year we bought a gigantic freezer. We also have a small, upright freezer that we use mostly for fruits and vegetables. We have found two pigs to be a bit much for us and only got one this year so I have a lot of empty freezer space. I think I can reorganize the food and manage with just the one freezer. I’ll sell the other and save the electricity costs, considerable on such an inefficient model. I also talked to Pepper about turkeys. She wants to raise some but can’t afford the cost of pullets this year. I can afford the chicks but I have no place to put them without a fairly big investment in a shelter. We came to a meeting of the minds. I’ll buy 25 babies. She’ll raise them and we’ll split the cost of butchering. I’ll get terrific birds for far less than the cost of the free-range ones I buy now ($60.00 a piece this year), and I don’t need to build a coop to protect them from the neighborhood foxes. I’ll have a canning marathon and get a year’s supply of turkey, ready to eat for about $225.00. That sounds like a lot of money but it’s really a deal.

I need to get much better at planning for food and fuel, clothing and other essentials in an intentional way. I look forward to hearing from you all about how you save money and prepare for an uncertain future. I learn so much from the folks who visit here.