Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter Storage Update

We're a couple months into the Winter food storage experiment. Almost exactly halfway so I wanted to try and update on where things are at.
Things that have been nice: watching the price of onions, garlic, winter squash and potatoes climb and knowing that I don't need any, making quick meals out of cheap good supplies, watching the snow fall and knowing I don't need to go anywhere.

Meals I've been making out of our storage food
-Pasta and white sauce; this one doesn't get mentioned much, but pasta is one of those things I store a lot of. I'm trying to keep 2 months worth, (or about 25 pounds) of various types and shapes. I stock up when I find some well below the 1.20 average price per pound.
-Roasted root veggies; I've posted this one before and it's still great. With or without meat, it always gets rave reviews from the men-folk.
-Roasted Squash; just the basics, cut it in half, put it cut side down in some water and roast it for 40 minutes. I do this with acorn squash, then add butter and a little brown sugar and spices. Mmmm. Easy meal, literally 1 minute of prep, then I have 40 minutes to clean or play with Rowen, which ever seems most pressing. :-)
- Potato Soup, nothing more than stock, onions, potatoes, carrot, garlic and spices. I add in some condensed milk and cheese at the end, salt and pepper to taste. Reeeeally good.

State of the Storage
- Apples 24 left of the original 60.
- Onions 27 left, (15 pounds) of the original 80ish that I started with. (35ish pounds)
- Squashes, all 3 of the zucchinis are gone. 2 of the 6 Acorns are left , 1 of the 3 Butternuts is left. I think I still have 1 pie pumpkin left too. (I should eat that soon, it won't last much longer.) I also have that giant hubbard to do battle with. It'll probably deserve a blog post of it's own. :-D
- Carrots, as I suspected were very unhappy in my dry basement and didn't last even a couple of weeks. We did eat a dozen or so, but most became worm food.
- Garlic, 10 of the 24 remain.
- Sweet potatoes, 12 of the original 25 are left, plus my southern relatives sent us up another 20 little ones that are quite tasty.
- Red Potatoes, I think there's about 12 pounds left of the original 36 lbs. This is a guesstimate.
- Russets - 8 of the original 20 pounds remain, again an estimate.

So, with everything but sweet potatoes, I'm more than half-way through the stores. That's ok. I'll still get good information about our usage rates, and I'm learning good stuff about storage.
I'll post some of my thoughts on that as I get things organized in my own mind. I'm still crunching some numbers for the useage rates and estimated dates for "shortages." (In quotations, because I want to assure my readers, I can and will be going to the store to replenish our stocks when I run out. In past times those dates would be when shortages would start, leading into the traditionally lean time of early spring.)

Anybody else storing food this winter? How's it going?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Still here, not (quite) frozen

Greetings. January has flown by, and I've been neglecting my poor blog. It's bitterly cold here, with ice and snow keeping all of us in the house more often than not. So, not much going on, thus not many posts. Contributing to the problem is the camera running low on batteries. I had to go buy some more to get pictures taken for this post.

The house bound time has contributed to a couple of projects getting done . I got curtains made for the kitchen, and they look really cute. I kept them really really simple, as the window quilts I'm making for the living room are going slower than I'd like. (Slower than Dave would like too, "You know we'll be in a new house before you finish that.") :-D So simple was the motto, and I wanted to get something done to boost morale. Cheery blue and white curtains, using large blocks of fabric, they sewed up really quick and were a big hit. It was a one day project from the cutting to the final iron and hang. Love it.

Some pantry de-clutter has also happened lately. A busy holiday season, full of baking, had reduced our pantry to a cluttered mess and no one could find anything. So, I spent a few hours sorting out, combining remnants, tossing the expired and generally bring some order to the chaos. I find a large supply of canning jars makes a task like this a lot easier. Easy to label, easy to stack, plus they're air tight.

Freezing our buns off challenge has been going well. We are consistently keeping the thermostat set at 67 or 65 during the day and 63 at night. No one has any frost bite, and we've all been pretty healthy so far. (Dave and I are fighting colds right now, but that's the first illness any of us have had this winter.)

I'll have an update on the Winter Storage project soon.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Seed Swap 2.0

Well, a new town, a new year, so it's time for a new seed swap.

My first go at seed swapping was last year while I was still living in Des Moines. I had a ready-made set of people to recruit from, in the form of the community gardens. Turn out was respectable and I think everyone really enjoyed it.

This year things are different (like that's ever not true!) and that will create some interesting challenges. First off, my new little town doesn't have a community garden. Secondly, I don't have a large cohort of friends here yet. What I do have is seeds, and the willingness to plan something and risk that nobody shows up. :-D

I've gotten the local extension office in on the fun. I think they'll help some with getting the word out to those who might be interested. I'm meeting with the local gardening club on Tuesday, and I'm hopeful that some of them will be interested in the event too.

I'm going to rely on those two groups to hit a lot of the potential audience, but I'm also printing some flyers to advertise in grocery stores/library/etc, and I'm going to go the old fashioned route and knock on the doors of gardeners I've seen in my neighborhood.

If you've never been to a seed swap, the general idea is to get a bunch of geographically local gardeners together in a room to swap seeds (duh), swap advice, recruit hands for pet projects, combine seed orders to save money on shipping, learn how to save seed from something new, etc. All you need is a room big enough for the (hopefully) couple dozen people, tables and chairs to comfortably sort through the seed bounty, and a couple of people willing to talk about local varieties, seed saving techniques and the like.

In my case I've decided to use the local library's meeting room, (meetings in churches always give me the willies) I'll do a short bit on seed saving if people are interested, (I've got some lettuce, basil and radish seed still on the stalk and needing cleaned that will make good props) I've got donated seed from Seed Savers Exchange out of Decorah, IA, (so noone will leave empty handed) and a bunch of clear little envelopes for those that forget to bring such things. Easy-peasey!

The hard part of course will be getting people interested in coming to such a thing. Most people, of the increasingly rare subset that actually garden, just buy their seeds every year from their favorite glossy catalog and that's all the thought that goes into their seed. The problem with that model is that often times the seed is coming from far away. Sometimes the variety is not suitable for the micro-climate the gardeners wants to plant it in. Other times seed growers can make mistakes and the seed shipped to the gardener isn't quite what was advertised. As oil becomes more and more expensive, growing seed crops and shipping them around the nation will grow more expensive, perhaps at some point prohibitively so. For these reasons, and more, knowing how to save seed is something I consider crucial for gardeners.

Getting together with local gardeners to swap seeds can yield bounty beyond just seeds. In times of hardship, knowing other food growers in your neighborhood can make the difference between having enough to eat and not. Those connections, those friendships, don't just grow out of thin air. Like the vegetables in my garden, they must be sown, nurtured and cared for to bear fruit.

So, I'm sowing. Come join us if you'll be in the neighborhood!

Feb 12th, 1-3pm, LeMars Public Library.