I have been sorting my seeds this morning. I purchased a number of seeds from Fedco. They come in packets marked by weight, not number so I find myself with an excess of several varieties. That’s good news as I am going to a seed swap next week. Seed swaps are wonderful things. People often have favorite plants and order or save those seeds every year. That means that particularvariety is hardy in our climate and a reliable producer. Swapping gives me the opportunity to try out the seed myself. Chances are, it will become one of my favorites too.

Indian woman beans are one example of this. I tried them a couple of years ago and found they worked well for us. They dried easily and my kids liked them a lot. I started saving the seed and now I have enough to swap. I am looking for orange Hopi squash. Sharon Astyk put it on her must have list as it holds for a full year without getting soft. I haven’t found it yet but I hope to. My favorite squashes last year were Delicata and red Kuri. Both have wonderful flavor, stored well and Delicata needs no peeling. I have a lot of those seeds saved and hope to swap with someone for a terrific broccoli. My broccoli last year was terrible. I bought Arcadia this year and hope for better luck.

This swapping thing is adictive which is a good thing. I suspect that the next few years will see a lot of us bartering and swapping rather than using money. When you think preparedness, think about what you can store that will retain value. Cloth diapers and pins, shoe laces, nails, canning jar lids, you get the idea.

It’s funny how the idea of value changes with circumstances. I used to think of a car as having value. I still have one but I consider it a necessary evil and a drain on my finances. An auto is the last thing I would “invest” in. I keep the car and the truck we have in excellent repair, will drive both until they refuse to budge another inch, then pay cash for another second hand vehicle when it can’t be avoided.

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Last night was stored food for dinner night. We had instant mashed potatoes, apple sauce, pickles,canned corn, biscuits and a scrambled hamburger with onions, peppers and lots of spices. I made the hamburger because I had thawed it for a meal the night before and then made something else. To be a totally stored food meal, I would have used canned roast beef.

There is a reason the Native Americans called February/March the Hungry Months. The pickles are getting soft, I am nearly out of potatoes and what I have left must be saved for seed. The only applesauce left has a slightly burned flavor and canned vegetables are vile. To add insult to injury, I opened up my last jar of canned blueberries this morning thinking I would serve that with the leftover biscuits and found mold ON MY BLUEBERRIES!!!! I can deal with the pickles. I will live with the applesauce. But my blueberries are my babies.I consider onions (starting to sprout), garlic(all gone) and peppers (at least I have a lot of dried left)to be cooking necessities. I am going to have to put out actual money to buy enough to get through until harvest.

I could eat for a long time on what I still have stored but the truth of it is that food fatigue would surely set in without some of the good stuff. I am so glad I planted more than double the garlic last fall as I did the year before. I can use wild ramps and early bunching onions until harvest. I hate canned vegetables. I have cases of them in the cellar pantry. At the slow rate I can get my family to eat them, I will not need to restock the case lots for years.

There is always the pull between preparedness and eating local, healthy food. Canned food is cheap, accessible and it will last a long time but we all hate it and it’s terrible from an environmental perspective. Fresh produce from own garden is amazing but I live in Massachusetts and, even with the greenhouse, can’t eat fresh all year. Frozen, dried and pickled work for different foods but nothing keeps forever and I can only put up so much. It’s easy to say that if we are hungry we won’t complain but I bet we do complain, especially the kids.

One of my many goals this year is to work on my cooking skills so I can make better use of all my food. We need to eat more dried beans for sure and I have to incorporate more sprouts. I also have to grow a lot more inside. I have a room upstairs that we use as a storage space for the bulk food as well as a spare bedroom. If guests already have to sleep in a room with wall to wall 6 gallon buckets of sugar, salt, wheat, oats, flour, corn and rice, I suppose they can get used to pots of tomatoes and green beans. Until I can get this food thing right, we will be eating canned corn (not terrible), canned peas( pretty bad) and canned green beans(simply hideous) at least once a week. It’s a good thing I make great biscuits.

I read a piece this morning about a couple who did a food stamp challenge. They ate on $67.00 a month for 2 months. It was a pretty interesting article. At the end of the challenge they went out for lunch and had a tough time enjoying their $14.00 bagel sandwiches.

I am always pleased when I read that someone, anyone is giving more thought to how he or she eats. Peak oil is going to affect everybody and food may well be the place that the average family feels it most acutely. The sooner we learn how to eat better with less environmental impact, the easier the shift will be. I was struck by one comment in this piece that I think is problematic. A friend was going to join this couple in the challenge but opted out when he realized how restrictive the diet would be. I wish he had tried even part of the challenge. Maybe he could have eaten that way for a week or spent slightly more money. It is a clear example of how we tend to be all or nothing about life changes. Until I can spend $3000.00 on a prepackaged storage system I won’t prepared at all. Until I build an off-the-grid cabin, I won’t bother cutting my energy usage with some simple reductions. Until I can afford to eat all organic produce, I’ll keep on eating at Subway.

Most of us can’t do it all. We have to make choices and make do. I usually opt for local and organic but sometimes I will buy a turkey on sale. I generally watch my hot water usage but sometimes I splurge on a long, hot bath. I walk to the store when the weather permits but when the wind is howling I drive the single mile.

It is important to see adapting to a changing world as a journey, not a destination. Every step matters. Today, you may put up a clothes line and make a public promise to never use your dryer again. If you get the flu or it rains for 10 days straight, trust me. You will be forgiven for slipping. Just don’t let the slip rob you of the will to keep on keeping on. Every step we take towards a more sustainable life matters. Try to take a a least one step each day.

My step for today is make a menu plan that includes 3 grain and bean meals each week. I took a class on cooking with grains and beans last week and now I need to put the information to good use. Nothing is cheaper to buy, easier to store or as versatile to cook with. It does take advance planning however. Tomorrow, I am making veggie grain burgers for dinner so tonight, I have to soak the black beans. Bruce is a meat and potatoes kind of guy and he likes these burgers so much, he will request them rather than a hamburger. The recipe is a bit long but is isn’t al all difficult.

Saute 3/4 cup of diced onion in 2 tbls olive oil. add 1/2 cup red pepper, 1/4 cup carrot and 3/4 cup mushrooms and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add 1 teas of dry sherry, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 2 teas dried basil, 1 teas salt and a grind of pepper. Now add 1 1/2 teas tamari and as much balsamic vinegar and saute for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and scape it all into a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cup brown rice, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 2 tbls tahini, 1 egg , 1/2 cup mashed black beans. Mix this all together and form into patties  and fry in a bit of canola oil. I find that coating the patties with some cornmeal gives them a nice crunch. Serve these like you would any burger.

This may sound like a lot of work and I suppose it is, at least compared to stopping for take out or pulling something from the freezer but this is what I am talking about. Eating well in the future will almost certainly be more work. You may not do this every day or even once a week but don’t let that keep you  from trying at least once.

If you are interested in reading about the food stamp challenge, the link can be found on today’s survivalblog post.

Sometimes a slush bound day is good thing. I was supposed to go out this morning but the weather will keep me in. This works because I am finishing Mike Folkerth’s book, The Biggest Lie Ever Told. I keep up with economic news but there are often pieces that don’t make sense to me. Mike’s book is not your typical doomer read. It is funny, informative and makes sense to someone without an MBA. I don’t recommend a lot of books but this one will find it’s way to my kids, just as Sharon Astyk’s book, Depletion and Abundance did. Add my book and you have a good starter library to life in this new world.

After that shameless plug, I want to talk about grains and legumes. I store a lot of both as they are cheap, readily available, will store nearly forever and provide a huge nutritional bang for the buck. The trouble for me was making them tasty enough to appeal to my family. Last night I made an investment in a cooking class that walked me through the finer points of preparing meals from what seem like pretty pedestrian ingredients. Even my husband, the meat man, liked the bean burgers I brought home and the kids fought over the dal (a kind of stewed lentil dish served with rice).

I know too many people who store food they won’t eat, thinking that in a crisis, they will figure it out. Guess again. Kids will go hungry before they eat something they hate. It pays to spend the money on some good cookbooks and spend time preparing meals from stored foods. We eat from storage several days each week. My new goal is a rice and beans in some incatation twice a week. I also want to cook with some grains I have never eaten before. Last night I ate rye and quinoa, new foods for me. With the right seasonings, they were terrific.

We are a spoiled bunch when it comes to food. Walk into a supermarket and the sheer volume overwhelms the senses. We can have strawberries in January and winter squash in July. Meat is affordable to most Americans at least some of the time. It is easy to forget that most people in the world eat less than we do and have a far more limited variety available to them. I can see a future where the lowly bean plays a much bigger role in the family meal plan. It behooves us to figure this out sooner rather than later. We will be healthier, save money and tread more lightly on the planet.

Back to the book and the cleaning. I do love getting things accomplished after laying around for nearly three weeks.