Anybody watching my house yesterday would have assumed we bought a cider press for the fun of it. People began rolling in at 3:00. By 4:00, we had so many guests that Bruce had to move his truck so there would be room for everybody to park. I made a huge pot of potato/leek/kale soup. Others brought bread, cheese, pickles, apple butter, preserves and cookies. We brought out all of the mugs and soup bowls, a pile of flat wear and napkins and let everyone eat as they liked. There were rotating groups, with some  people washing fruit, some feeding the hopper, some cranking the hopper and some pressing the fruit. Another caught the cider and transferred it to mason jars while others brought the pomace to the pigs or the compost pile. In between, we went to visit the bees, check on my mushroom logs, and generally chit chat and enjoy ourselves. After only two hours we had 13 gallons of cider made almost entirely from gleaned apples. It was quite a feat. Clean-up only took about 20 minutes with everyone pitching in. It was one of the nicest afternoons I have had in a long while. I froze this bunch of cider but I will probably can some. I am not sure of my terms but I think that once it is canned it becomes juice rather than cider.  Does anyone know the actual definition?

We spent considerable time discussing housing options. Some of the people in this group have co-housing arrangements and others are considering it. It does seem silly to have these huge houses with only two people in them. We talked about the merits of sharing with family, with friends or with strangers. Bruce and I are having this same talk as we are not getting any younger and will need help if we are to stay in our home until we leave feet first so this was a pretty interesting line of thought.

Sharon Astyk has something she refers to as the theory of “anyway”. Much of what she does as preparation are things she would do anyway, even if peak oil were to be solved tomorrow. I am not as deep a thinker as Sharon. My theory is “for the fun of it”. Even if peak oil were solved tomorrow, much of what I do I would continue to do because I enjoy it. I like to press cider and grow mushrooms and raise bees and forage for edibles. I like to make wine and bake bread and preserve food and shop cooperatively. I get a kick out of reducing my consumption and making my house more energy efficient. Mostly, I enjoy being with like-minded friends and making a community. I prefer the company of people who talk about food and soil and community than the company of someone talking about the latest fashion or the hottest celebrity.

I hope you are all well on the way to being prepared. I do not think things look good on the economic front and it is a sure bet that the cost of energy is going to go through the roof in the next few years. Those who are not ready are going to have a very hard time. But I hope you are having fun too. I hope you can find satisfaction in jobs well done. I do not think the future looks as bleak for everyone as many do although I think it looks bleak for many. But you have the ability to be a model and a beacon for others to follow. If you are doing the work that needs to be done with grace and good humor, your neighbors, family and friends will at least have a picture of another way to live, another option for the future.

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I got a cider press! Well, not me alone but Bruce and me and two other couples. I am excited on two fronts. Of course, I am tickled that I will be able to make cider and press fruit for wine but I am just as pleased that I have made my first group purchase. I think it is such a waste of resources for everybody to buy these big-ticket items when they are used for just a few days a year. Pressure canners, cider presses, even pick-up trucks are huge expenses and it only make sense to share the costs and benefits. It does demand a different mind-set but I ma slowly getting there.

Today was an on again, off again rainy day, perfect for soup. I made a lentil stew with lots of onions, garlic , kale and carrots and topped it off with home-made rolls. I am getting a lot more intentional about using my food storage. I am not so good about rotating the canned vegetables as I don’t care for them. I’ll bet I will like them better in April when the garden stuff is gone.

We have had two trees cut down this summer. It left us with a pile of wood that will be a good start on the fuel we will need when we get the chimney repaired and can begin to use the wood furnace in the basement. We also bought our arch so we can start a maple syrup operation in the spring. Between the honey, the syrup and the cider we will be swimming in sweet. I sure hope we can find enough people to barter with for the stuff we need like more wood and manure for the compost heap.

Plans are moving along for a sewing center in our church vestry. Our sustainability group has had dozens of sewing machines donated and enormous amounts of fabric and notions. The idea is to set up a center where we can go to sew, hold classes and repair clinics one night a month. We had everything but space and new we have that. I will probably do a 4-H sewing group too. I bought the pattern for some very cool slippers. I do need some help putting them together. Fortunately, there is an excellent seamstress in my group of friends. I hope I can trade some honey for some help. Sewing is not my strong suit.

It is that time of year. The air has all of summer’s heat but none of summer’s warmth. Even at 80 degrees there is a subtle nip. It is downright cold right now. I am wrapped in a fleece robe and drinking a tonic of vinegar and honey instead of tea. We have reached that busy stage of harvest and preparation. We pulled another row of potatoes last night ans set them to cure. I pulled a pile of big beets and left others to mature a bit longer. That means beets grees for dinner. I love greens fried in a bit of bacon and sprinkle with some vinegar and feta. I am making more kraut today too.

Bruce got the herb garden staked out. We are going to cover it today with a layer of wet newspaper and black plastic. He situated it to sit right outside the fantasy exterior kitchen. The Stark Brothers catalog came in so it is order time for new trees for the orchard. We are hoping for a small fruit harvest next year. The raspberries are fabulous. We are still eating a cup or two a day. The fox grapes are pitiful this year. I will have to purchase (sniff, sniff) grape juice.

We also got two large trees chopped down. That leaves a big pile of wood to get split and stacked. We have some big sons for the work. Another tree is going as well. It’s on the town berm so they are doing the cutting but the wood will be ours if we want it. We do.

I have to drop off the money and pick up the arch I got for Bruce. I am really excited about sugaring in the spring. We are also getting ready for honey harvest. I have the jars but need to get the labels printed.

I am thinking ahead to the holidays. I have such fun ideas for gifts. I am getting Bruce a sign for the shed with Barefoot Farm logo on it. I think he will really like it. Phoebe is getting the American Girls dolls that belonged to y older girls re-headed. As my foster daughter is approaching adulthood, I am looking for a beautiful wooden box or trunk for her. I want to fill it with little things like dish towels and baking supplies. Remember hope chests? I don’t think people do that anymore but we should revive the practice. We can be egalitarian and include tools.

We have a neighbor coming over to show Bruce how to properly measure our windows so we can begin the process of replacing them all. Until then, we will continue to put up plastic on the interior. It worked well last year. The furnace needs to have the filter replaced and we have to finish the ventilation in the root cellar. The car needs new tires. That has to happen pretty quickly.

I also have people asking me to do a bread baking workshop. I think I will offer one in my kitchen. It would be a lot easier that hauling all of my stuff over to the Community House and I could charge very little as I would have nearly no overhead. I am thinking that I could manage 5 participants at $20.00 a piece. I am harboring this fantasy of a side business of delivering bread to maybe five families a week. I could easily make ten loaves of bread in an afternoon. I suppose I would run into all sorts of commercial kitchen problems though and by the time I paid for the ingredients I would be making about $.15 cents and hour. Maybe it doesn’t sound like such a good idea after all.

Are you all hunkering down? What do you do to prepared for the cold season?

Now you have a food supply. The power goes out and there sits your food, staring at you, daring you to find something to make that your family will actually consume. You begin to hallucinate. Images of Pop Tarts and frozen pizza fill your brain.

Well snap out of it. There is no place for Pop Tarts in a preparedness program. Not that they would go bad quickly. They are  not real food and lack the capacity to rot the way a carrot does. But still not anything one would bother stocking up on. But what will you eat? Managing you food supply means having a menu plan at your finger tips. The last thing you need in any crisis is lack of directions. Pull out your preparedness notebook and the meal plan should be on the first page. I am assuming you have secured a way to cook but I am also assuming no frozen foods. If you have a freezer and need to eat down before things thaw, your menu plan will have to reflect that.

Breakfast. Assume coffee,tea, milk or hot chocolate

Toasted bread with peanut butter and honey-canned fruit

Pumpkin muffins with raisins-fruit juice-

Blueberry pancakes with syrup or fruit sauce-

Scrambled eggs-toast-fruit juice

Rice cooked in milk and raisins

oatmeal with dried apples and cinnamon

French toast with fruit sauce

Lunch. Assume milk is served with each lunch

Macaroni and cheese with stewed tomatoes

Vegetable soup and toast

Tuna sandwiches and carrot sticks

Chili and bread sticks

Chicken and rice

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and canned fruit

Chicken soup and toast

Dinner. Assume milk and extras like pickles, applesauce and canned fruit

Chicken and dumplings

Stew and biscuits

Rice and beans

Ham and potatoes with green beans

spaghetti and sauce

Chicken and rice curry

Lentil soup

Snacks and desserts

 Cookies, dried fruit, pudding, jello, cheese and crackers, yogurt

Add a daily multivitamin and be sure to include a fruit juice with vitamin c and milk or other high calcium drink. This is pretty basic but it will keep you in good shape and is not bland or boring. It does demand that you reconstitute milk, bake bread and maybe make some yogurt or cheese. I would be willing to bet that this is a better diet than many people get on a regular basis. It is also fairly simple although not fast food.

Today is a short post. I have to go to town and work in the garden.

We need five servings of fruits and vegetables every day to meet our need for vitamins, minerals and fiber. That’s hard enough for many, even supposing you ready access to a supermarket fill with foods form around the globe b ut what if you had to eat from home storage? How could you get that many servings. For a family of 4, that’s 140 servings a week.

It is first important to remember what a serving size is. It is only 1/2 cup for an adult. That is a really small amount. A 1 cup helping is two servings. Next, you must remember what counts. The juice with breakfast, the raisins in your oatmeal, that handful of dried kale in your soup, those carmelized onions are all considered a serving. Even canned pumpkin used in bread or a pie is a vegetable.

My first choice for meeting my vege needs is to grow and preserve my own or food I have purchased locally. I do buy some dried things, notably apple rings and raisins. Other than that, In September and October, I am a preserving fool. This is not a good year for wild fruit so I am having to scrounge a bit more and buy some things I would usually get for free. Still, with diligence, I will get a lot of fruits and vegetables canned.

We have a cold cellar now so a good deal will land there. If you have a space to put in a small, insulated from the exterior heat, room in your basement, you can put away carrots, beets, potatoes, onions, garlic and apples for months. Get a good book on the subject as there are particulars to storage that you need to know. The most important points are to keep apples away from vegetables as the ethylene gas apples give off with cause spoilage of other food and check your food every day or so. One bad apple as they say.

You can purchase freeze dried fruits and vegetable. I have a good deal in storage. They can look pricey but probably not bad if you only other option is to buy food on the open market and put it up yourself. Freeze dried food is light weight and the quality is excellent.

You can always fill a freezer with what you need but that leaves you at the mercy of the grid and the utility company. I do freeze some things we just don’t eat any other way like broccoli and string beans. I hope to move into more drying and fermentation and away from freezing in the future.

This week is the case lot sale at Big Y, our locally owned market. A case of any vegetable is $7.50. I usually do a stock up this week of the few things we eat canned on occasion. Corn and peas are all we are likely to run short of in April. While I don’t like them I could eat them if I had to. I also keep a couple of cases on hand for charity. When the time comes to rotate I can hide a canned vege in a soup or stew. I will stock up on tomatoes and canned soups. I will also buy a lot of canned fruit. A lot as in five or six cases. It has a long shelf life and is so versatile. I have made brandy from canned apricots, raisins, sugar, yeast and water with good results.

Not to be overlooked is the option of growing food year round in your house, a cold frame or small green house. Get a copy of Fresh Food From Small Spaces if you are thinking of doing this. There is a dandy self-watering container I plan to build. Don’t forget sprouts and mushrooms. Both are easy to grow and provide a good amount of food for the space required.

Finally, fermentation. I did a lot more pickling this year and I love it. Pickled vegetables have a lot of vitamin c and add such a festive fell to a meal. We are getting into the habit of pickled something at every meal. A copy of Wild fermentation is a good reference book as is the Joy of Pickling.

I am off today to get the meat for my food preservation class. I have a lot of folks signed up. I hope to learn as much as I teach. I will not be posting this weekend (really) as the class will chew up Saturday and I plan to go looking for apples after church on Sunday. Perfect weather is forecast.

I know a lot of people are looking at the price of gold at it’s all time high and rushing to put in an order. I just bought more wheat. It may be a failure of imagination on my part but I don’t get the fascination with precious metals. For me, a tangible is something I can eat, wear, plant or keep warm with.

This next part of managing your personal food supply has to do with grains and legumes. Both are vital for a varied diet  but I have some caveats before suggesting anyone go purchase 700 pounds of wheat. First, know how and where you will store it. It will take up some space and grains are susceptible to infestation by bugs and spoilage due to mold if the conditions are not right. Next, know how you will prepare it. Wheat without a grain grinder does not translate into bread. Finally, get your family used to eating it. There is a huge difference between a loaf of whole wheat bread and a loaf of that cheap, fluffy white stuff from the supermarket. Kids who have never had anything but Wonder Bread are going to balk when presented with the real staff of life. When I started baking with whole wheat, I began with a 1:6 ratio of whole wheat to white flour. I am now at 1:1 unless I am using white whole wheat which is more palatable to most kids. Then I use all whole wheat.

Wheat is cheap when bought in 50 pound sacks. If you don’t live near a place that sells it in bulk you will have to order it from a co-op or bulk supplier. Even with shipping, wheat remains a bargain. It’s the accoutrements that will break the bank. A good grain grinder is expensive. Food grade plastic buckets with gamma lids are expensive. The real estate necessary for storage is expensive. It may seem easier to just buy the whole grain flour but ground whole wheat loses a good deal of the nutrients that make it a valuable food in the first 6 weeks of room temperature storage. By the time you purchase ww flour from the market it’s already deteriorated.

I think we may need to get over the idea of private ownership of some big ticket items like grinders in the coming hard times. A church group or family center could chose to buy a grinder cooperatively and purchase grain in bulk. It would save everybody money while providing better nutrition. It could also be the cohesive force in a group, offering opportunities for shared meals, trainings and the development of further shared community resources. I know someone who has fashioned a pedal powered grain grinder from an old exercise bike. I hope she will do some demonstrations and teach the wider community how it was done. Excercise bikes are available for next to nothing at tag sales every weekend.

Wheat is not the only grain to store. Oats, barley, corn and rice are also important. All require proper storage to keep them in prime condition but all are inexpensive in bulk. For the cost of a one of those exercise bikes that are generally used to hang coats on after the first few week, you can supply a small family with a year’s worth of many grains.

I have to make a confession about beans. I love them and use a lot in my everyday cooking but I am always forgetting to soak them the night before. I often end up going to my cans of beans when it’s 5:00 and everybody is hungry. I know I could save money if I just got better organized. I think the only option for me is to dedicate a day to cooking and canning beans myself. If you don’t rotate your dried beans you may well end up with insect problems. They also require longer cooking as they get older. If you end up with dried beans you aren’t eating you can grind them and add to flour for a nutritional boost or make into a soup base.

When storing grains and legumes, don’t forget the add-ons like yeast, sweetners and spices. Plain beans are about as bland as a food can be although I should add that my girls will eat a whole can of rinsed, drained garbanzo beans as a snack. Spices can be stored for longer than you might think if stored in an air-tight container and away from moisture, light and heat. I put spice mixes in vacuumed sealed mason jars and have always been satisfied with the potency.

I made a breakfast for the girls last week of 1 cups of rice simmered in 2 cups of milk. I added some raisins and honey and they loved it.

This may turn into one week-long post as the subject is critical in my opinion and the vast majority of the developed world does not recognize the fact. We still treat the supermarkets as an unending supply of both wants and needs and many have not come to grips with just how fragile the system is. Suppose we do have a flu epidemic this winter? What if 80% of the workforce calls in sick? What if you drive to the market and find it is closed do lack of employees? I know I am mostly preaching to the choir here as readers of blogs like this are generally among the better prepared but what happens when your sister or your next-door neighbor calls and asks for enough groceries to see them through? Do yo still have enough? It is better to know sooner rather than later what your response is going to be.

I have been looking at my supplies in terms of categories and meals. Today I will begin with fluids. Fluids include everything you will drink, milk, juice, coffee, tea, water and any other beverage that matters to you. I went to look over my stored water and found that, after less than six months in storage, two of my gallons of water had leaked.  They must have been small leaks because there was never an obvious puddle of water. The jugs are just empty and the wood shelf they were sitting on is discolored. Purchased water in plastic jugs should not be used for long term storage. If you plan to store water get a bunch of 2 liter soda bottles or heavy juice bottles, clean them very well, fill with tap water, add a couple of drops of bleach and store them in a dark place. Cheap and efficient. I am taking the plunge this month and buying a good quality water filter. I keep saying I am going to but I put it off because i live in such a water rich location. Even so, surface water needs to be treated and boiling it, while efficient, uses up a lot of fuel just when fuel may be in short supply.

After water, milk is often what families with pregnant women or children look at. I get my milk in #10 cans from Provident Pantry. The milk is tasty and my kids actually like it. I do not recommend buying milk in cardboard boxes for storage. It tastes terrible and there is no way be sure of its age. I have tried to make yogurt and cheese from store bought powdered milk with no success. Go for the good stuff or do without. I do not buy shelf-stable milk either. It too tastes terrible and it has been irradiated and I just have a hard time thinking of it as real food. I do buy some canned milk. It has its uses, especially in cooking if diluted 1:1 with water and substituted for whole milk.

We probably drink a lot more juice than we should but juice too has its uses in the emergency diet. It supplies necessary calories and can disguise the flat taste of stored water. It also supplies vitamin C which is an important vitamin to have, especially if one is ill. I store several kinds of juice. I but 1/2 gallon or gallon jugs when they are on sale. The drawback is that they are bulky and heavy. The plastic jugs are also an environmental disaster.  I rarely throw one out as I can use them to store water. I am at a place where I am doing everything I can to avoid using plastics so I may have to refrain from buying any more jug juice regardless of the price. I do buy cans of juice concentrate. These take up much less space in storage but they do require enough water to reconstitute properly.  i generally add one more can of water than is called for. My kids don’t notice and I am saving calories and money. When I was a kid, oranges were a treat. We drank Tang, just like the astronauts did. I found some at the market and brought it home to try. It was just as sweet and disgusting as I remembered. Surprisingly, my kids did not mind it. They are dreadful little food snobs and will rarely consume something so clearly artificial. I now keep a couple of jars on hand but it is something I would only drink if I really needed the vitamin C. I keep some lemonade mix around too. It is more of a moral builder than anything else. it would take a better marketer than I to convince anyone the stuff was food.

I like coffee but as I drink it with cream and sugar I know I should stop. I keep a couple of pounds of good coffee in storage along with some freeze dried stuff. I have enough on hand to provide a coffee addict with a cup a day for two years. It takes up less space than you might think and again, it is a moral booster only. I store a lot of tea, both herbal, black and green. In a vacuum sealed jar it holds up well. I grow mint and lemon balm, dry it and store it for my winter drink. I bought some little muslin reusable tea bags but it was a silly spend. I could have made them from scraps in about a minute.

I make wine and brandy but I also buy wine when I find a good sale. It stores well, is a good barter item and can go a long way towards making a dinner a bit more festive. Even if I did not drink I would consider keeping a bottle of whiskey on hand for medicinal purposes