Friday, May 9, 2008

Independence Days Challenge

This is my first weekly synopsis of the independence days challenge.

1. Plant something everyday - I've been a little weak on this front. I have seedlings in peat pots, and I bought 4 half wine barrels and planted potatoes. I've purchased soaker hoses to begin getting water efficiently to the plants, and put up two rain barrels (though after the first rain realized some adjustment is necessary). Since we just moved into this house, the vegie garden space is limited until I bust some sod. Mr. Greanjeans works tremendous hours every week and at least once a week, often twice, he works around the clock.

2. As it's spring, the harvest is a little low. I have found locally produced honey, however and of course the milk cow (see previous post), and I've ordered 25 light Brahma chicks. They are a straight run and so we will be harvesting roosters this fall.

3. For preserving, I found that the walmart in my area still has buckets and gamma lids and so I bought 4 of those (cost just under $40).
Walmart also still had the 50gal blue drinking water storage barrels and hand pumps. I'd like to get another of these blue barrels. Yea, food and water storage at Walmart is a Utah thing. These will go in the garage, which we learned last winter resists freezing to about -15 f outside temps. Oh and I also bought a 32 Qt. pressure canner. I have quite a few jars, enough to fill a free standing shelf unit when they are empty, but from experience of using them, I know I'll need more for what I'm trying to do.

4. Prep Something. I had organized and cleaned the pantry the week before. I'll be going to the grocery store a little more often, for peanut butter and such based on what I read in this article in the Wall Street Journal about rood prices rising much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. Probably what I wrote in #3 should go here. However I also purchased 4books,
Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times
Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance
Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long
, and
Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables

5. Manage reserves. In this category I am actually using things out of the freezer. Again I have years of experience putting food by and one of my common mistakes is not using the food in a timely manner and having it go bad. One has to live in this system of food storage or else is is just hoarding. You have to consume on one end while stocking on the other end. If you eat too much out of the grocery store, you don't have a taste for preserved food and you aren't eating in good rotation. So, we are having lots of frozen strawberries in anticipation of the new strawberry crop and also because they don't last forever. I also know that I tend to put up too much jam. I'll get going on a jam craze when the fruit is in and it will take us years to eat it all, by which time some will begin to get too old.

It is this category alone that got us through a really bad year last year and the one before. We got into a hole, and we give thanks every day for our being able to climb out of it - but the only way out was to accept an offered hand to do it.

6. Cook Something. I've really been conscientious about cooking and blogging the Monday Menu blog keeps me on top of it. Making a menu and laying out the ingredients keeps waste down and production up. I've stopped buying packaged cereal which requires me to get up earlier and actually make breakfast for everyone. The trouble is the increased dishes produced and the need to prod teenagers (one of whom is taking AP tests and final exams) to help more.

7. Work on Local Food Systems. In having conversation with the people at the greenhouse, I learned that a local farmer's market is beginning for the first time this year. I made contact with them and have agreed to attend their meeting later on this month and lend a hand. They also referred me to the local conservation group. I attended their noon meeting a short walk from my office and met 5 people who have worked for years to bring recycling to town and are just this week seeing the first fruits of that. With out this challenge, I don't know that I would have shared my time.

8. Learn something new. I've been learning from the posts on Sharon's food storage groups and I learned about pasteurization in the home dairy.

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