Monday, December 22, 2008

Independence days- week 3

Better late than never.
It feels like it has been a really unproductive week, like I've been spinning my wheels but not going anywhere.
1. Plant something: NOPE  Did get the second bank of lights hung over my lettuce seedlings.  They're getting little leaves on them.  It's nice to see something growing with all the cold and icy weather we've been having.  I've also been poring over the seed catalogues.  Roger and his wife Sharon are coming for dinner on Saturday so we can talk garden then.
2. Harvest something:  NOPE again
3. Preserve something: Three strikes- I'm out.  Well, maybe not in this game.
4. Store something: One of my sisters sent us a pound of macadamia nuts for a gift.  Most of those will go into storage in the fridge or freezer since I can't see us eating that many before they go bad.
5. Manage reserves:  Here I can say I've been doing a good job.  I found one of my butternut squashes was beginning to get a bit wrinkly in one spot so we ate it.  I've also been using flour and sugar out of my reserves but will need to replace it.  We've been trying to eat all of our meals out of the freezer to make room and have been doing a pretty good job of it.  It's nice to not have to rely on the grocery store.
6. Cook something new:  A big no here as well.  This is the time of year we make some of our favorites.  I hope to try to make some fudge this week- something I've never mastered yet- I've never figured out what I do wrong.
7. Prep something: Got a new coat for I11 and while we were out picked up several spare pair of gloves at 50% off.  Also picked up a case of canning jars that were on a last item clearance.
8. Reduce waste:  Composted, recycled and used cloth bags at the grocery.  I feel like we've wasted some food recently though,  leftovers seem to be getting lost in the back of the fridge and aren't being eaten before they go bad.  With the children home on winter break for the next two weeks, I hope I can get them to eat some leftovers.  Usually I'm the only one who takes them for lunch.
9. Learn a new skill: Nope. I haven't touched the knitting.  Driving in slush covered streets and scraping ice aren't new skills, just brushing up on old ones.
10.  Work on community food security:  Talking to my sister yesterday I tried to touch on this.  When I told her we were buying a side of beef her question was 'Why?'  She lives in suburban Maryland, just outside the DC beltway,  her husband works for the DOE, she is pretty well entrenched in the consumer comforts.  My mom and I were talking about planning gardens and I mentioned that I'd asked Santa for a pressure canner for Christmas. My sister laughed and said that she gave up on her garden, it was too much work.  SIGH.  Sometimes I find it hard to believe that we were raised in the same house. She was at least excited to get the chutney and applebutter I made.  
11. Regenerate what is lost:  I don't feel I've done very well with this one either.  I've been too wrapped up in my own crankiness to reach out.  I'll try to do better this week.
Ok, this was a bit of a downer. Hopefully this will inspire me to do better in the coming week, although with the holiday celebrations, I don't know what I'll get done.


  1. It's hard to do this "independence stuff" around the holidays, especially if you just started tracking it. Don't feel discouraged. It's all about baby steps. You started, and that's what counts. Think how much further you are than your sister with the cushy job. (DOE? Geez - they should have a clue - that's scary!)

    I felt this frustration when I started about 8 months ago. DH was not completely on board, and he was the major breadwinner. I made some headway with him but talking about buying bulk to save money, but it took a conversation with one of his family elders - who wants to start keeping chickens - for him to make a real commitment. He agreed to buy a freezer and allocate $1000 to buying a 3-month supply of food. I was ready - I had been biding my time by looking for local sources of cheap food.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that this is winter. I am already feeling a definite cycle in food storage. Spring is about planting, and being creative with the last of the winter food stores. Summer and fall is building your stores through preserving and canning as different crops become locally seasonal (read: cheap in bulk). Winter's focus is on cooking and eating out of storage, taking advantage of sales on spices and staples at stores, and RESTING.

    Don't forget that the accumulation of knowledge, through research, taking classes, reading books, and as lessons learned the hard way ALL counts. In fact, since you've started in the winter, you are have the luxury of working on the knowledge end of things without the spring and summer pressures of planting, harvesting, and preserving. I am planning to go to my state's Farm Show, a state Sustainable Agriculture conference, and start a food discussion group at my church.

    Don't be hard on yourself. A few hours of reading blogs by people who are 5th gen farmers and canners is also work that counts, in my mind. There is a lot to take in, and you will only be able to do it in small bites.

    Wel... now I seem to have written most of my next blog post, right here in your comments, LOL! Don't be surprised to see this reappear, with some examples, on my blog.

  2. Thanks for the pep talk. I don't think I'm terribly down on myself as such. It's just this time of year. I saw on someone's blog (don't remember who's) something about a theory that SAD is a northern european adaptation to winter. How better to pass the dark days than withdrawing and sleeping. At least the days will be getting longer. I am actually pretty proud of what we have accomplished in our lives. Things just aren't going according to my plans.

  3. Hang in there. I think we all get a bit stressed and out of the routine this time of year, no matter whether we celebrate holidays or not. We all tend to go into the traditional, comfort foods (thinking of number 6). I think you're on to something with managing your food stores so well, that is the one that takes a lot of planning and alertness. Matriarchy is right, all the learning, planning, and soaking up of information all "counts" and just makes us better prepared to tackle things we want to in the coming months. Think of this time of year as investment?

    Question: you mentioned eating from the freezer to make room - are you still finding things to store in there? So its a rotating stash? Or do you fill the freezer and then eat "fresh" while you get it, turning to the freezer in the later parts of winter/early spring when you can't find anything at the farmers markets/own growing efforts? I've been doing the latter, eating from the available stuff and planning to dive into the freezer stores as late as possible.

    How do you think of regenerating what is lost? That is one that I have been trying to figure out, and struggle with. You'll get there - especially with how aware you are. Your talk with your sister was eye-opening to me, how there are so many perspectives to something like gardening, what I (and I'd guess you) see as a joyful committment others can see as a dreaded chore.

  4. Localzone- Thanks for your comments. We are trying to make room in the freezer for our beef that is coming in January. We made arrangements to buy a side of grassfed beef from a local Amish farmer. It's a big investment but will feed us for a LONG time. He will take it to the processor the first week in January and once it is hung and cut it will be ready mid to late January. We need to make room for about 290 lbs of beef in our freezer. It has been a long time since we have eaten much beef (getting the good stuff is SO expensive) but this will cost us only $3.41/lb.. We have stores that we have from the farmer's market this summer plus lots of turkey stock from after Thanksgiving sale turkeys that we're trying to use. We don't eat that much meat so it takes a while. The farmer estimated we will need 4 cubic feet to store the beef so we're trying to have a bit more than that.
    The regenerate what is lost category is the one I struggle with as well. I'll link back to Sharon's post explaining it in my next update. I see it more as building community, not necessarily supporting food supplies, but the relationships. In this crazy world we live in it is so easy to let things slide- like meeting the neighbors, helping someone get their car unstuck from the snow, that sort of thing. It is so easy to remain anonymous. My take is that we need to challenge that lack of connection. But I think it's up for interpretation.


Glad you stopped in. I would love to hear from you.