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.

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I love to eat. I especially love to eat food I grow or gather or trade for. I wold rather eat an old hen that a neighbor culled, the kind that needs stewing for hours before you can chew it, that a tender fillet that was factory fed and shipped from Omaha. I also love to tell people what I eat, even when their eyes have glazed over and they are clearly not interested. On this blog, I have a captive audience and I hope an interested one so I am going to wile away today’s post with telling what I have had for dinner this week.

Pizza. I store wheat and grind it myself but for pizza. my kids like a lighter crust so I but flour in 50 lb sacks from my co-op. I usually go with 1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 white flour. For topping, we had sun dried tomatoes that I soaked in hot water and olive oil, feta cheese, olives, spinach leaves, dried mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. I bought the olives and olive oil. The oil was free trade. The cheese was local and really expensive so we went very light on that. The mushrooms were foraged and dried last summer and the spinch was dried as well. It is not the same as fresh but it is better than something from California or Florida.

Salmon cakes. I buy canned salmon when it is 10 for $10.00. I use flavored bread crumbs that I make, onions, milk and an egg to make a paste that will hold together. I don’t follow the can directions as it is way too wet. I fried these and served them with rolls-the recipe came from last months Mother Earth News. We had the end of the pickles, oven roasted potatoes and grape juice I put up from fox grapes. It was a little slim for my crowd so I made a peach crisp for dessert. I still have a lot of peaches.

Stew. I went to the cellar and brought up canned everything but potatoes. I had to boil them for 15 minutes before I added them to everything else. A little cornstarch thickened the broth. I served some applesauce because I still have a lot of that too.

Pancakes. My kids like breakfast for dinner. I served them with the last of the frozen strawberries. Those berries were so good, I could have served them over newspaper.

Quiche: I filled a regular milk and egg batter with frozen fiddleheads, mushrooms, cheese and onions and served some dilled beans. Do I need to say were all the food came from.

In my dreams, I will someday be able to get local wheat. I will always have to import some stuff like olive oil, chocolate, coffee and Earl Grey tea. Still, it is possible to get that stuff free trade and organic. I will have to pay dearly for it but I can do that because I don’t eat meat every night and don’t mind foraging grapes, mushrooms and greens.

We are reaching a point here. Do you all remember that old poem about The Wonderful One Horse Shay. It was built to last forever because the builder noticed that things broke down, they didn’t wear out. It lasted a good long time too, then broke down in a crashing heap all at once. I think that’s where we are, breaking down all at once. We have to eat local. We have to eat less. We have to think about where our food comes from. We have to store enough to get us through the crisis that are looming. We have to get prepared. The time is now

In my hilltown community, we are used to snow and ice bringing down the power lines and leaving us in the dark for a day or two. No problem. Most of us can manage for 24 hours without electricity. The kids consider it an adventure and the adults an excuse for lying around reading, taking a nap and sleeping in. The birth rate usually spikes nine months after a power outage. Board games come out. We tell stories by the light of the fireplace.
But the power has been out for nearly a week now and the new has worn off. For most families, no electricity means no water, no heat, no phone and no computer. We are sick of canned stew and the freezer is defrosting. The kids are bored and cranky. We would file for divorce but the phone lines are still down. Here’s the truth. Radical change is hard.
As I watch our economy crumble it occurs to me that many families facing foreclosure, unemployment, vanishing retirement and mounting debt, both personal and governmental, are living through the economic equivalent of a grid down situation. Last year we wondered where to go for vacation. This year we fear for the very roofs over our heads. We can’t worry about having the latest electronic toy under the tree for our children when we are worrying about how to feed them, keep them warm and pay the dentist.
I spend a lot of time teaching families how to be self-sufficient in a crisis. Until now, that has meant strategies such as buying hurricane lamps, lamp oil and extra wicks. It meant having a week’s worth of water stored and a way to cook the canned food from your storage pantry. I told folks to have extra sleeping bags on hand and to always keep their gas tanks filled.
As the economy gasps and chokes I fear that buying lanterns is just the beginning of what families need to do to prepare for a new reality. Buy your supplies, of course, but don’t stop there. Make a list of all your toys. Start with the exercise equipment, the boat, the RV, the plasma screen television. Now add all of the gadgets you used once and now only gather dust. You know what I mean. The pasta maker, the bread machine, the massaging foot baths-they all seemed like a good idea at the time. Put them on Ebay or have a tag sale. Sell them and use the money to pay down your debt. Cut up your credit cards. Get a library card and use it. Practice saying no to your kids. Plant a garden. Learn to bake bread. Eat leftovers. Invite your neighbors for a pot luck dinner. Volunteer. Make a community.
Times are changing and after the thrill of the inauguration is over we have to settle down and change too. Come on, elected officials. Say it. We have to sacrifice. We have to make do with less, maybe a lot less, so that there will be enough to go around. We have some hard lessons to pass on to our children. It will be better in this new world to produce rather than consume. It will be necessary to save before we spend. We will have to stay home more and go out less. Work is necessary and leisure needn’t cost anything. It will better to lose with honor than to cheat to win.
We need our leaders to step up and lead. I want to see a victory garden on the white house lawn and solar panels on the pentagon. I want to see a come-as-you-are, pot-luck inaugural ball. I want less glitz and more substance. I want us to prepare for the future rather than let it creep up a nd leave us frightened, cold, hungry and in the dark.