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.

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I spent the whole day yesterday preserving food. I made 24 pints of bread and butter pickles, started some sauerkraut and froze what I think will be the end of the broccoli. I gave some jars of the things I have put up to friends; Heather and Tom got some applesauce, pickles and tomato sauce and so did Sheri and Barbara. I love swapping preservedfood. You never know when you are going to receive a treasure from someone that will turn into a family favorite. Sheri gave me some Bulgarian yogurt starter so I know what I am doing today. I want to make cheese too as I am anxious to try some lacto fermentation with the whey.

Today looks to be another winner weather wise and it is time to pull out more spuds and get the cured ones in the basement. This is time of the year we eat potatoes and onions every day. Our favorite way to cook them is together. I saute a lot of onion and some minced garlic in olive oil then add cut up potatoes. If the are taking a while to soften, something that often happens with new spuds, I may add a bit of water. My girls are big fans of caramelized onions. They can hardly believe it when they hear other kids say they don’t care for them. I will sometimes put a bunched of slivered onions in the crock pot with some butter and olive oil, start on high until it gets simmering, switch to low and leave it overnight. The onions are beautifully caramelized the next day and make the most remarkable onion soup, especially if you use three or four different varieties of onions. This is another good pantry meal as all of the ingredients are just sitting there. I use a beef consume base and pour the soup over slices of toasted French bread and top with whatever cheese I have around. Gruyere is our favorite. I have some leftover potatoes from dinner so breakfast is going to be potatoes and eggs.

I am hoping to get more corn picked today. One of the wonderful things about eating in season is that I get to feast on something until I am sick of it. You know fall is here when the idea of corn on the cob is no longer exciting. I am craving salad again just as the new plants for the green house are poking up. All of the green house starts look good. I am anxious to get them planted but I have one lone cantelope taking up space in there like the mean, rich uncle no one likes. You hate to kick him out because the rewards are so immense but one has to question weather it’s worth the bother.

I just got a new book (I’m generally frugal but books are my weak spot). Fresh Food From Small Spaces is so much fun! I have large spaces but there is so much information about indoor gardening that it is still useful.

My grandson is being baptised in Pennsylvania at the end of the month. We are thinking we should take the girls out of school for a few days and visit the Dutch country while we are there. These are the times I miss home schooling. I will need to ask permission to take my children out of school and it could be denied. It won’t be but I find it hard to believe that I could be fined for not sending my kids to school for a few days for a family trip that will be educational as well as fun. I occasionally make noises about home schooling again but I must confess that being home with no kids for the first time in 34 years is really fun. I can get an amazing amount accomplished and I do enjoy getting to be a grown up for these 6 hours a day. When my kids are home I always have an ear cocked and an eye peeled. My mind can never be fully engaged elsewhere.

For all who have asked about Phoebe Jean-she is much better. She had no fever last night and didn’t cough much. I am keeping her home today as I know there is a tummy bug going around too and I don’t want her exposed to anything else while still recovering. With the Monday holiday, she will have a change to recoup before going back to school. My Phoebe is a sleeper. She can go to bed at 8:00 and sleep until 9:00 the next morning. I am glad not to have to rouse her today. I just checked her and she looks like an angel. I sometimes sit next to her bed and watch her sleep. In the quiet of her room, the sight of her flushed cheeks and the steady rythym of her breath are like a meditation. I can sometimes not believe my luck, that I should have been given the opportunity to parent these particular children at just the time they needed families. I does make one question fate and what is meant to be. I know there are many who would question our decision to adopt a child with special needs, especially at this stage of our lives. I will never forget what Bruce said the first time he saw Phoebe. She was a funny looking little thing, not even able to hold up head at 7 months old. She was wheezing and smelly and clearly atypical but she smiled up at Bruce and he melted. “I do believe the God has dropped and angel on our doorstep”  We have cared for dozens of healthy, beautiful, bright babies over our years as foster parents but we were able to say goodby to most and feel good about what we had given them and where they were going but Phoebe was different. Phoebe was ours.

Okay. I know it’s silly but I do like to come up with clever names for my blog titles but some days it’s a challenge. Yesterday was one of those good days, bad days in my preparedness life. First the good news.

The good news. I put up 7 jars of pickles. The bad news. I had one and they are sour. They are supposed to be bread and butter but these were just not sweet. Not such a tragedy. They will still taste great on a burger.

The good news. I put up 14 jars of spaghetti sauce. The bad news. My canner top is warped! I can’t get it to close properly. I still have my old canner but I need this one for the canning workshop I am teaching on the 17th of September.

The good news. My friend, the peak shrink came over to pick up the jars for my milk.  The bad news. I had to feed a gallon of regular, store bought milk to the pigs because my kids like the raw stuff so much that they left the store stuff and it was going bad. My DH bought it without knowing I had a milk delivery scheduled. I can buy farm direct milk for $2.50 a gallon. The store sells processed milk for well over $5.00 a gallon. It is a sin what is happening to our milk farmers. In the coming hard times, that sill be something that changes.

The good news. After dinner, I was hot and cranky. I had literally stood over a hot stove all day so Bruce suggested we go hiking at a forest preserve not far fro our home. We came home with a gallon of blueberries and a sack of mushrooms. The bad news. There is no bad news. I am munching a blueberry muffin right now and the rest are in the freezer and tomorrow night we will have my kid’s favorite meal-homemade pasta with mushroom wine sauce.

It is supposed to be really hot this week. I do so hope that some of my garden will come along. As it stands now, the melons aren’t happening, with the exception of the delecata, the winter squash is worse and I have little hope for pumpkins. Lat year we harvested 30 pumpkins, this year, I think we will lucky to get one. This has made me look at my cellar with a very critical eye, especially with so many looming crisis ahead. I developed a shopping list to fill in the cracks that are usually supplied by my garden. Canned pumpkin is a terrific food for storage. It is loaded with important vitamin A and makes a wonderful bread that is a meal in itself with added raisins and walnuts.

I have some wonderful friends. We have a bunch of plans for the coming months. We are planning a cheese fest a couple of times a month. We all use raw milk and are busy learning all we can about turning it into cheese. I happen to live a couple of miles fro the Cheese Queen, Ricki Carroll, the author of Home Cheese Making. I asked Bruce if he would make me a cheese press as this is necessary for making hard cheeses. A good hard cheese will last just about forever, especially when waxed. We also plan to get into wine making in a very big way. We will do some foraging as long as the weather holds and do as much cooperatively as we can.

When it comes to being prepared, goodfriends are worth everything. I mentioned in a post that I was looking for stewing hens that I can afford. My friend, Kathy, called and said she was getting some chicks delivered and would raise 10 for me at cost. How to you count the value of friends like that? You can’t. You can only be grateful. The good news.

I went to the city yesterday to participate in an upcoming docu-drama about the world after a pandemic decimates society. I was interviewed primarily about food, evacuation and community building. There are some pretty strange ideas out there about how one would get food if forced to leave one’s home on foot and unprepared. The reality of a man needing 3000 calories a day is hard to wrap your mind around. One thing for sure. You won’t get it by foraging wild greens. I don’t think it reasonable to expect that some city guy, who spends his day pushing paper is, all of the sudden, going to turn into Wilderness Jones and snare a couple of squirrels a day either. And water. Did you ever try to carry a gallon jug for any distance. Water is heavy and awkward and most ground water in the US is not safe to drink without being treated. I asked about things like shoes, shelter and security. The security is especially important because, in a real apocalyptic scenario, it won’t be just nice guys and theirfamilies on the road. It will be desperate, frightened people and many will not be nice.

Then there was talk about how much land a family would need to feed themselves. Again-plain silly to think a paper pusher becomes Mr. Green Jeans without any experience farming. Just this year, with the blight problems, a lot of us would be hungry if we were depending on that crop to feed us through a long winter.

The next question was about bunker living versus finding a community. Here is the truth of it. Man is a herd animal. We are not designed to live in isolation. We need each other. None of us can do everything. In a community, the soap maker will swap her wares for honey and the bee man swap his honey for milk. The dairy farmer will swap for wine and the vinier swap for shoes. The shoemaker will give a pair of boots for help with birthing his first born and the midwife swap for soap.  Pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents will matter less than a real thing that you need to keep warm or fed.

I  came away from interview with a renewed commitmant to some preparedness principles.

Bloom where you are planted as long as you are not planted in the middle of a big city with rampant crime. If you are, start today to make plans to get out.  Make your home the place you escape to. Get it paid for ASAP and spend the money to get it energy efficient. Know it, love it and care for it.

Know where your food comes from and keep enough stored to get you through a time when leaving might not be safe or wise. Learn now how to grow and preserve what you harvest. Store seeds and tools and plant perennial food plants like berry bushes and fruit trees, asparagus and rhubarb.

Make community service a priority. Know your neighbors and treat them like family. You don’t have to love them. You have care about them. Those are two very different ideas.

Get a skill. Practice until you become expert. Don’t expect to make a living as a potter or winemaker. But do learn all you can and build a customer base as your skills improve. Offer a quality service and be honest. The best investments you can make are in yourself, your home and your community.

We have talked a lot about the terrible growing season this year and about food security on this blog but until I spent a day pulling out my tomato plants and bagging then in black plastic until they are dry enough to burn,until I wept over the black and grey splotches on the leaves of my potato plants, until I spent an hour on the phone in search of 3 bushels of local, organic tomatoes only to be told that such a thing may not exist for any amount of money, I did not comprehend the true fragility of our food security.

The tomatoes were started from seed in my upstairs spare bedroom. They were lovingly cared for and, when strong enough, transferred to the greenhouse, a small model that was purchased with money that could have been spent many other ways. Then they were watched and fussed over until big enough to be transplanted to the garden, into soil that has been nurtured with the manure we got from neighbor’s cows and the remnant of many happy meals that had turned into compost over the course of months. The potatoes were heirloom varieties. I remember how excited we were when our good friend, Sheri, called to tell me she had them, how we anticipated eating them as she suggested, baked in olive oil and rosemary and sprinkled with coarse salt.

If you sauce comes form a jar with a picture of a fake Italian chef on the label, if your potatoes are limp, greasy strings you get at some drive-in window, it may be hard to understand the depth of my grief. Perhaps I am overreacting. It is, after all, only some produce. My kids won’t go hungry. I can afford to go to the market and write a check and bring home a year’s worth of sauce but it feels like more to me. Somehow I am channeling the fear and anguish an Irish farmer who saw her crops die before her eyes and knew that she was witnessing the death of her children, her culture, her homeland.

This is why I prepare. Even if I could not afford to lay down the money for sauce,  having food in storage means that I can get through a bad harvest and not be destroyed by it. I see the cans of seed I have as insurance against a bleak day when that heirloom seed may be priceless to me.

My children humor me about all of this. I don’t think the real vulnerability of our agricultural system is real to them. They think of our gardening as a kind of intense hobby that pays off in some mighty good dinners. They can not imagine that I am doing this, not just for fun but because I don’t ever want to wonder how I will feed them or their children. Henry will turn 2 next week. I bought him a child sized wheel barrow and some garden tools. They are tiny but they are sturdy and made for real work. When he comes here I will take him to the garden and show him how to rake and hoe and pull a potato from the ground with more reverence than if he had just discovered a diamond. We will cook the potato and eat it and talk about what a miracle it is.

I must add something. In the midst of my misery yesterday, I took a break from the arm numbing work of pulling out all those plants and looked over my mail. I found a catalog from Richters Herbs and a gift certificate. It was a belated birthday gift from Heather and her family. There is no word for my gratitude, not just for the gift but for the promise of the gift. I spent the evening looking over the pictures and imagining next year’s herb garden. I could smell the oregano and taste the lemon balm. Thank you Heather. What magic was afoot that I should recieve that gift a week after my birthday on the very afternoon I needed it most?

I have gotten a couple of private emails directing me to an article that is linked at the survivalblog website about a family on unemployment in Elkhart, Indiana. I suppose it could make you angry (it did a lot of people) because this family is losing their rental home while still purchasing beer, soda and cigarettes but it just made me sad. These guys thought they had a contract with America for a specific kind of life and somebody broke the contract. Pointing fingers won’t help.

This got me to thinking about a couple of other emails I have received asking where I thought families should begin in starting a preparedness program. These were people less concerned with big disasters and more concerned with recession depriving them of their livelihood. Yesterday, I spent some time looking over what I have and trying to prioritize  in terms of real usefulness. For instance, I have a bottle capper because I like to make soda but I would not give that a high rating. Making soda is fun but not necessary for survival. What follows is my “gotta have it list” for preparing to live on less.

Water bath canner: I start here because water bath canning allows you to glean and gather fruit and process it with very little effort. You can buy a couple of bushels of tomatoes and put up quarts and quarts of sauce. If you have some land, and by some I mean ripping out the roses if necessary, you can grow tomatoes and your sauce will be nearly free.

Pressure canner: Meat in bulk is a lot less expensive but you need to be able to preserve it. Freezers and electricity cost a lot more than a quality canner and the meat is there, able to be turned into easy, stove top or outdoor cooked meals. I would start by learning to can hamburger, chicken and stew beef.

Dehydrator: Today, I am buying bags of frozen vegetables at the big box store and drying them for long term storage. They are cheap right now and I want to avoid buying another freezer so drying is the way to go. Drying herbs and fruit is easy and requires less electricity than any other method of preservation.

Food Saver: Having a vacuum sealer makes it possible to keep dried food in optimal condition. I dry larger vegetables and grind them up for soup base.

Canning jars: You can never have too many. Check out yard sales and Craig’s List for the best buys but if you must pay cash, consider them an investment.

Weather proofing: check out every program that is available to help you reduce your energy consumption. Sell the big screen TV to buy insulation.

One good, basic cookbook: You need to know how to prepare real food. Every time you are tempted to buy fast food, put those dollars away and make biscuits and gravy and a simple vegetable dish. Follow up with a fruit cobbler.

Community: Got friends? If you have friends, you have people to share expenses with and people to learn with. That canner is less expensive if you buy it with your sister or your best friend. You half the cost and double the fun. Instead of spending money going out to eat or to the movies, pick a couple of bushels of apples and put up apple sauce. You will have so much fun and be eating great food in January when the stuff in stores is expensive and shipped in from Chili

Land: By land, I mean garden space. Maybe your church or synagogue will put in a garden if you get the ball rolling. We have a garden on our school grounds this summer. Families are taking turns caring for it. Go to the library and check out books on self sufficiency on small spaces. There are lots to chose from and they are full of ideas. Check out books on thrifty living. The Tightwad Gazette books are a good place to start. I have all of them and read them often for inspiration.

This recession is far from over. The people in Elkhart would call it a depression. If only they had prepared for this time, there lives would be so much better, so much healthier. We all need to be preparing for a life of less. It is up to us to make decisions now that will keep our families healthy and happy, no matter the economy does.

With all of the rain lately, I have been forces inside. While I wold much rather be in the garden, this has given me an opportunity to reorganize my kitchen and work on my preparedness menues. To make it to the list of meals a food must be something I store or can make from what I store, able to be cooked with the methods I have available, tasty, nutritious and able to be stretched should we be feeding more people than planned.

We had one of my favorite meals last night. It is a simple pizza made from the easy 5 minute bread recipe from Mother Earth News. I have the book that this bread recipe came from. It is a terrific find for those who are not comfortable with baking bread as it is pretty hard to mess up. The sauce is from my stored foods as are the mushrooms. I love to make cheese so there you have it. Did I mention that pepperoni keeps for a long time without refrigeration? Bruce boght me a sweet little oven that sits on top of a wood or gas stove. It gets plenty hot enough to bake a pizza. When I have recipes finished, I will put them all in as a post. Most will not require recipes as pretty much everybody has a recipe for salmon cakes and the like sitting around.

I have an experiment to try. I do not grow enogh vegetables to meet all of my needs. Most, but certainly not all. I have read that it is possible to buy frozen vegetables and dry them in a dehydrator. The next rainy day, I am soing an internet search on that. If it works, I plan to dry purchased corn and peas (organic) and dry them to supplement my stores. I am also drying purchased celery as I use a lot of it in soups and I have never been able to grow it here. I need more onions, peppers and garlic than I gres this year, (the rain was hard on my garlic) bt those are the basis for nearly everything I cook. I am a big believer in trying to keep my crisis food as close to what I eat every day as possible.

I am heading to the hardware store as soon as it opens. On of the joys of this tiny town is that it has a terrific, independent hardware store. The prices are a bit higher but the owner is my neighbor and they are located a 30 second walk from my house. If Bruce finds he needs a piece of wood on a Sunday, he walks down and picks it up and drops by on Monday to pay for it. Try that at Home Depot. I need to get some paint to fix p the metal storage cabinet I got at a tag sale on Saturday. I am painting a couple of other cabinets that I keep in the kitchen. I need to come up with better storage for my dried foods as they can not be stored in the basement. I figure things might as well be pretty as not. All of this is on hold right now as the sun is shining and I am going outside to enjoy it.