Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Food Storage

 We have a large cold room in the basement, built in a corner on two outside walls, insulated from the rest of the house.  We have two large chest freezers, both outside, in unheated areas, where I can unplug them through the winter.  I borrowed a third chest freezer from my dad this year- turkeys take a lot of freezer space.  That one is in the house.  We're an hour from the city, everything is triple the price in town, we're prone to getting snowed in, and I am a hermit.

Stockpiling food is a way of life.  It's preserving the bounty of the harvest from the garden, from the woods, from the hunting season.  It's raising and butchering our own meat.  It's investing in food at low prices to save money when the prices are higher.  It's trying to live sustainably in an inhospitable growing area.  It's the convenience of having everything I need on hand, being able to cook what I want, and not having to run to the store.  It's the security in knowing if I get snowed in for a week, or a month, that it doesn't really matter.

From the garden, I freeze most veggies.  I do not have a pressure canner, so freezing and pickling is the way to go.  When I run out of home grown I buy about a months worth of frozen veggies at a time.

I have one large cupboard in the kitchen for dry goods.  I buy 3 large bags of great northern beans, and usually two large bags of some other varieties at a time, when their space is low.  I buy about 8 bags of assorted pasta when it's on sale.  I buy enough yeast at the bulk food store to fill two quart mason jars.  Usually a mason jar each of chocolate chips and raisins.  I keep three boxes of baking soda, three boxes of corn starch, 6 bags of sugar on hand.

I keep a magnetic pad on the fridge and add anything that's getting low (there's only one left in the basement) to the list, so I can start looking for sales before I actually run out of anything.

The freezers replenish quickly with a good hunting/fishing season, when we butcher our own chickens, turkeys, rabbits, or a pig, find a little fresh roadkill, and someday I'm hoping to butcher my own cow. 

Since my visits to the city are much fewer and farther between these days- the Bigs have switched from Sea Cadets to Air Cadets in the same town as their highschool- it's even more important to make sure we are well stocked here at home.
I started taking inventory in the cold room on October 13th.  There are a few things here that I might have gotten a little overboard with on sales, like 15 bottles of bbq sauce, 12 bottles of salad dressing, and 45 jars and cans of pasta sauce.  Some things are a little low- only 3 cans of mushrooms, 2 jars of mayo, and 6 cream of mushroom soup.  Everything else is looking pretty good, right around the stock that I like to keep.  I try to keep track of how much we use between sales, and buy enough to get through until the next sale.

Most of these things are not sustainable.  If TSHTF, I can make my own mayo, pasta sauce, cream of celery soup, tomato soup and catsup.  I have found and tried recipes for all of those.  I buy them mostly for convenience, but also because I can buy them cheaper than I can make them, and we mostly prefer the store bought versions.

I would miss mushrooms and cream of mushroom soups most.  But then, I might finally find someone wandering the woods who could teach me to identify the local mushrooms safely.  I know there's a delicious assortment out there, but it's a little too dangerous to experiment on my own.  Peanut butter would be out of the question- there's no way it's going to grow here.
The overflow of pasta sauce has found it's way over to my fruit canning shelf.  It's fairly well loaded, in spite of me being a total slacker this year.  Keeping up with the beans in the garden, and knowing I still had lots in the basement, I did very little blueberry picking this year, and we ate most of it fresh.  It wasn't a great year for raspberries, smaller, dryer berries this year, and the jam shelves were still mostly full.

Here's where we're at:
Blueberry sauce- 2008 X 6 pints, '09 X 4 quarts, '10 X 21 half pints  (24.5 pints)
Raspberry sauce-  '08 X 6 pints, '09 X 4 quarts, '10 X 6 pints + 22 half pints (31 pints)
Dandelion syrop- '10 X 4 pints
Beet juice- '10 X 4 quarts
Rose hip syrop- '10X 2 pints
Strawberry jam- 11 pints
Mint jelly- '09 X 2 pints
Plum Jam- '08 X 5 pints
Raspberry jelly- 2 pints
Blueberry Jam- 10 pints
Watermelon jam- '10 X 8 pints
Choke cherry jelly- '09 X 3 pints, '10 X 3 pints
Elderberry jam- '09 X 1 pint
Lemon marmalade- 4 pints
Blueberry lemon marmalade- 1 pint
Peach jelly '09 X 3 half pints

The other canning shelf is also home to 4 cans of coffee, and 15 cans of tomato juice.  I don't drink coffee, and wouldn't miss it.  I can make a passable dandelion root coffee, and rose hip/mint tea.

Pickled beets- assorted older jars X 41!!! + 21 quarts  (We had some freeze when we moved, plus two years that they didn't turn out well with store bought beets.  I've been feeding them to the chickens in the winter, but I had no idea there were still that many down there!)
Dill pickles- '10 X 10 quarts (Also not very good.  Some jars are ok, but a lot of the cukes were too soft and didn't turn out well.)
Green salsa- '10 X 16 pints
Pickled carrots- '10 X 8 pints
Pickled tomatoes- '10 X 5 quarts (no one was brave enough to try them)
Pickled radish- '10 X 1 quart
Watermelon rinds- '10 X 8 quarts
Pears- '10 X2 quarts
Blueberries- '09 X 2 quarts
Enough pop to seriously make someone ill.  We could live without pop.  We only drink about 1 glass/day, plus the Bigs take a can in their lunch.  It's the cheapness factor that keeps me buying it.  Most juices are just as bad as pop, and those that aren't aren't local, aren't sustainable, and cost a fortune.
6 big, beautiful pumpkins, are residing on the potato skid.  On sale for $2 each.  Potatoes need to be replenished.  We are fortunate to have a potato farmer not far away.  I usually buy 2 or 3 50 pound bags at a time.  Emergency water.
More pop.  3 bins of rice, 80 kg.  2 bins of flour, 70 kg.  I assume that if TSHTF, certain commodities, like flour and rice will return to older methods of harvest and shipping, and we won't suffer too long without it.  I have grown wheat, and plan to put more effort into growing grains again next year.

2 bins, a box, and a bucket of carrots.  All layered with sand.  I bought 10 X 10 pound bags of carrots when they were on sale for $2, plus the carrots from the garden.  I should have bought more onions than just 1 X 10 pound bag, because it's already half gone.  I expected to have quite a few garden onions.  Turkeys will dig up and eat your onions if you let them free range in your garden.  Oops.
Half a bucket of turnip, mom shared some of hers, also layered with sand.

Only a quarter of a box of lard left, and the restaurant supply store I used to buy it from went out of business.  I can make lard when we butcher, but at this point, I've only done it with pork fat.  If TSHTF, and I needed to, I could do it with all sorts of animal fat.  Bear,  in particular, looks promising.

We're already on our last box of apples.  I bought 4 X 8 pound bags, plus 2 X 10 pound bags that my brother and sil brought up from down south.  I'm hoping I'll get lucky and get another harvest sale.  We take the apples out of the bags and layer newspaper between them in boxes.  They keep for several months, if I can keep the kids from eating them all.  Once they start getting soft, it's time for apple sauce.  Working on apple trees.  Apple trees are essential from a sustainability stand point- pectin required for jams.

We could probably survive 6 months or longer with little hardship, and little need to leave the house, if need be.  We could make it a year or two without starving, although we might end up making pine needle tea to ward off scurvy.  My goal is to keep expanding the garden until I can produce enough of everything I can grow to last a full year.  I'm also hoping to grow enough winter feed- root crops and millet- for the critters.


  1. That's a lot of food, but with four boys and two parents, it would go more quickly than if I were depending on it. Could you try growing roses that have hips for your vitamin C? It is a better source and more palatable that pine needle tea. Besides, maybe you could make something with the petals. I would like to enjoy the flowers along with gathering the hips. My roses that were here when I bought this place do not have hips and I have two varieties of roses. Bummer.

    I have much more tomato products than you do, and do not consider it too much. In your forest garden, you can get the proper logs and order mushrooms "seeds" to grow for you own use.

  2. Why don't your roses have hips? Do you pick all of the flowers or prune them off? The hip is the seed pod, which forms after the flowers.

    I made rose hip syrop last year, and I have a jar of hips in the fridge that I keep adding to as I find them in the woods. Lots of wild roses here. The 'cultured' roses also produce hips.

    The thing about pine needles- they're available in the winter, when nothing else is around.