"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Disposition To Preserve

"Alexandra often said that if her mother were cast upon a desert island, she would thank God for her deliverance, make a garden, and find something to preserve. Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson. Stout as she was, she roamed the scrubby banks of Norway Creek looking for fox grapes and goose plums, like a wild creature in search of prey. She made a yellow jam of the insipid ground cherries that grew on the prairie, flavoring it with lemon peel; and she made a sticky dark conserve of garden tomatoes. She had experimented even with the rank buffalo-pea, and she could not see a fine bronze cluster of them without shaking her head and murmuring, 'What a pity!' When there was nothing to preserve, she began to pickle."

You can read this fine story by Willa Cather in it's entirety online - 'O Pioneers!'

Much like Mrs. Bergson we once again foraged, grew, and preserved with a devoted enthusiasm. I would suppose that the success of our garden could, in part, be based upon how much food was put by in the root cellar, canned, or saved through other means of preservation. If we were to judge our gardening endeavours in this manner it would once again be deemed another prosperous season. The cellar contains an embarrassing amount of beets, carrots, potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, celery, Belgian endive, root parsley, onions, kohlrabi, cabbage, peppers, and apples. Our warm dry living room is home to members of the cucurbit (squash) clan and yet another cool dry back room contains saved seeds for next year's garden, baskets of garlic, and even a few shallots.

This room is full of carrots, beets, and potatoes (not shown).

We like to keep our onions in baskets as it helps with airflow.

Atop our kitchen refrigerator one can find an assortment of glass gallon jars filled with various dry beans, corn, and fruit leather. The two freezers on our porch are both stuffed beyond capacity with foraged service berries, elderberries, Oregon grapes, huckleberries, cranberries, dried morel mushrooms, and cubes of hawthorn berry syrup. And from our garden - frozen strawberries, grapes, raspberries, black raspberries, blackberries, currants, gooseberries, josta berries, zucchini, broccoli, rhubarb sauce, dried apples, dried pears, dried apricots, more peppers, beet greens, kale greens, peas, stewed and dried plums, dried tomatoes, and herbs like cilantro and basil.

The back pantry contains↓

1 large box full of grown and foraged tea herbs

Tomato sauce - 104 quarts (13 left from last year)

Thick spaghetti/pizza sauce - 52 pints

Various salsa derived from tomatoes, tomatillos, and combinations of both - 82 pints (6 left from last year)

Ketchup - 7 half pints & 10 pints (4 from last year)

Sauerkraut - 5 water bath canned, 9 unprocessed quarts in basement & 6 in the refrigerator

Nasturtium Capers (also called poor man's capers) - 2 half pints

Various whole and sliced pickles - 23 pints & 15 quarts

Green beans (pickled) -6 pints

Apple sauce - 11 quarts & 22 pints

Pear sauce - 6 quarts

Huckleberry Jam - 6 half pints left from last year

Mincemeat - 11 pints & 1 quart

Ginger pear sauce - (we love this on baked squash) 22 half pints & 5 pints

In preparation for next year's gardening adventures we ordered re-usable Tattler canning lids and rings and in doing so will, with any luck, not have to concern ourselves with the availability of store bought lids and rings going forward. Our worries being that the lost art of food preservation might quickly gain relevance due to future economic or other woes that may transpire.

"...steam was generated beyond the power of the canister to endure. As a natural consequence, the canister burst, the dead turkey sprang from his coffin of tinplate and killed the cook forthwith." - News report of an early canning industry accident (1852)

Fortunately, no such bad luck has befallen us and of all the canned food processed this year only two empty jars were lost when the bottoms busted out because I failed to properly heat them before dunking into hot water to be scalded. All in all we are quite content with this year's harvest and are especially glad to be finished with the task of canning all our "green" tomatoes. Out of the estimated 500-600 lbs we harvested this year a remarkable majority of them ripened up nicely indoors. We just finished our last batch the day before Thanksgiving...Ay yi yi !

There will be no more warm jars for Rodger, the fat black cheshire cat, to cuddle up next to.


Oxray Farm said...

Beautiful! All those coolers full of food, that is inspirational and exactly what I am working towards!

I ordered the tattler lids for this season and used all of them. However I found that the rubber seal gets too stretched after about 3 uses and has to be tossed. Still a vast improvement over the metal lids. The white plastic top will last forever and I've had no issues with any of them. I need to purchase more rubber rings for next year's season. I'll be interested to see how they work for you.

Thank you for the lovely post and ideas on how to store veggies!!

Daphne said...

Goodness. I think I wouldn't be able to eat all that food in two years. I envy those beans though. I have some from my garden this year, but not very many. I'm hoping that next year I'll have more.

Bev said...

Wow! Just wow.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

great googley moogley! I love that you are so organized..and really all I can say is WOW!

Love the canning accident report - I'm still a little terrified of mine.

E said...

That is truly beautiful - neat, organized and lots of variety.
Many you have a peaceful winter and enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your efforts.

Engineeredgarden said...

Holy Moly, you're ready for the apocolypse! That's quite impressive....

meemsnyc said...

W O W!!! Ditto on what everyone already said. Love love love your root cellar full of goodies! Kudos! You guys need to write a book on how to do this! Seriously! I'll buy it. I noticed in one photo you had something still in pots? Are those beets? Is that how you store them?

kelli said...

i am AMAZED at all you grow and preserve. wow!

and rodger's a sweetie! do you have any other animals?

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

Very impressive!

Granola Girl said...

We would love to hear about how your Tattler experience went with the canning lids. We've considered it, but were leery to how well it would actually work. Those pesky lids are the only thing really stopping someone from being complete sufficient with food and garden produce year after year.

Kim said...

WOW! I have to say I want to be like you when I grow up! ;)

What an amazing harvest. Enjoy it through the upcoming (very) cold months we will be having.

And please share you thoughts on the tattler lids once you have used them. I have been considering them for a while also.

Dani said...

Wow - your cellar and it's contents are what dreams are made of :-)

Can't wait until I am producing enough to preserve for the winter.

Reckon a few bottles of ginger beer wouldn't go amiss in your pantry / cellar :-)

Lorena said...

Boy you guys are sure industrious. This is truly inspiring. How many acres do you have in production? I'm curious what kind of herb tea mixtures you came up with. Thanks for the wonderful blog and all the photos, I know that takes work too!

Anonymous said...

I am very impressed. This is like Santa's toy factory up in North Pole, only much, much better!!!

Regarding storing onions, I keep mine outdoors, in a basket covered with newspapers. I was told that freeze will only make them sweeter, and will not make them rot. What is your experience with storing onions?

johnnydesoto said...

Only a pint of capers? lol

Feels great to stand back and survey the harvest of all your hard work doesn't it? Happy Thanksgiving!

Robin said...

I am very very impressed with the amount of food you preserved from your garden.

It all looks so wonderful!

Buttons said...

All your hard work shows. I am very impressed with your self preservation.
It is a true beautiful site.
Enjoy your bounty over the coming winter.Congrats.

Sense of Home said...

Very impressive! Better than any grocery store shelf; you are supplied for some time to come. The tattler lids sound like an interesting idea, last year I had trouble finding enough jars and lids, the stores were running out. This year they were well stocked, but reusable lids sounds like good prevention and forethought.


Mr. H. said...

Oxray Farm - Our tattler lids and rings are at the post office waiting to be picked up, so I am excited to see what they look like. It will be interesting to see how they work, but don't think we will have a chance to try them out until next fall...no more canning for me this year. Thanks for sharing your thought on the tattler product.

Daphne - Surprisingly, between my wife and I, the grandson, dog, and chickens, we usually manage to go through the majority of our produce by mid June. Have you ever tried Fava beans, they are great for the soil and give large amounts of beans compared to other varieties we grow...very cold hardy too.

Bev - Thanks..."Wow" is what I said when I finally finished canning for the year.:)

Ohiofarmgirl - Hopefully the pressure canners have improved since 1852.:) We are still using a water bath canner but hope to find the pressure canner we want next year...maybe. Then I can can some meatballs.:):)

E - Thanks, I am truly looking forward to a nice long winter in which to cook and enjoy all of our food stuffs. I even purchased a new recipe book called "The Victorian Garden Cookbook" that is plum full of vegetable recipes of every sort.

Engineeredgarden - Yes, we are ready for the apocalypse:) Hopefully no such event will take place but if it does we should at the very least have plenty of high carbohydrate food to manage the cold months with.

Meemsnyc - The plants that are just now starting to sprout up in pots are called Belgian endive. We planted the bare roots in these pots early last month and will be able to eat the sprouting foliage throughout the winter.
Check it out - http://subsistencepatternfoodgarden.blogspot.com/2009/01/forced-to-provide.html

Kelli - We have another old, old cat named Spooky, our dog Rowdy, and a flock of very ornery chickens. Rodger is not as sweet as he appears, he is actually quite the bully and takes great pleasure in picking on the other animals...but not the chickens, he is afraid of them.:)

Vegetable Garden Cook - Thanks!

Granola Girl - I won't be using the new lids until next year but will most certainly share my thoughts via this blog after I have tried them out. Don't tell anyone but I even experimented by re-using glass salad bottles. We canned up a few with ketchup in them and they sealed really well...so now we are saving a few of the bottles just in case we ever have need of them. I learned this trick from a friend in Italy who cans (bottles) all of his tomato and fruit products this way.

Geni said...

Wow! Amazing! BTW, how long does it take to eat them up?

Mr. H. said...

Kim - We will enjoy our harvest and I promise to share my thoughts on the new lids and rings once we have used them. Thank you for your kind comments.:)

Dani - My wife might disagree with you and say that our cellar is what nightmares are made of...she ran into a bat that is attempting to spend the winter down there a while back and now refuses to go downstairs after dark.:) But yes, home brewed ginger beer would fit nicely on the shelves down there...I think we will try this soon.

Lorena - Everything we grow is managed on just about 1/2 an acre...that is always expanding.:) My wife has a huge assortment of tea ingredients that are made from things we gathered or grew like nettle, gumweed, huckleberry leaves, various mints, lemon balm, St. John's wort, clover, prunella, skullcap, echinacea, and numerous other ingredients. Some teas are made up for colds and flu while others are used more as a daily drink.

Vrtlarica - Santa's toy factory.:) I think the grandson, after helping out in the root cellar, would not think of it this way.:) We keep our onions in a cold dry area and they seem to store really well. I do know that the smaller bulbs will sometimes overwinter in the ground as we often leave them in the garden so that they will produce green onion sprigs for us in the spring. I have never tried leaving any large ones outside. I think the moles and voles might enjoy them as a winter snack.:)

Johnny - Yes, the capers are a new experiment for us and to tell you the truth we have not tried them yet. It does indeed feel nice to see and enjoy the foods we have grown, reaped, and preserved. Happy belated Thanksgiving to you too.

Robin - It is a lot of work but well worth the effort, especially around this time of year when it is so cold and white outside....brr.:)

Buttons - Thanks, we will enjoy our bounty. After all, partaking in the finished product is my favorite part of the whole venture.

Brenda - We often make jokes about going to the market for supplies and then either head out to the garden or downstairs to the root cellar.:) Last year we had a hard time finding jars, so we stocked up on them as well. It wouldn't take but one little unforeseen event for the store shelves to be empty of these supplies so we are indeed trying to stock up in advance...just in case.

Mr. H. said...

Geni - While we are eating breakfast the topic of conversation is often dinner :)...so we do manage to get through all of this food without too much trouble. Seriously though, our goal is to save enough food away to make through until June at which time the gardens are once again producing for us.

WeekendFarmer said...

What a great post! Brings me a smile on a back to work Monday. What a great life you lead...I am happy for you.

Regards, coporate prisoner aka weekendfarmer : )

Heiko said...

What can I say, this ost has everything! Literary quotes and even exploding cooks! What an educated man you are. How many pounds of tomatoes you said you had? And didn't you have quite a cool year too? It's just impressive. One day I'm just going to have to come and see you, just to make sure you're not making all this up. ;)

LynnS said...

Wonderful, beautiful harvest! Despite the year's difficulties, your garden's gifts were bountiful -- a testament to the Thanksgiving season.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Thousands WOWs! That is certainly lots of stock and supply for a long long long time. What is nasturtium capers? I have lots of nasturtium seeds and don't know what to do with them.

Geno said...

Seeing your harvest all put up makes me feel good inside even though I had nothing to do with it! Your blog has helped me to get trough what would have been a harder summer and fall. All from having your bounty to look upon and learn from for my own future use. Thank you for sharing and Happy Holidays!

6512 and growing said...

Holy wow!
I think winter is made for good eating, what else would you do with all that inside time?
Happy chowing!

The Gingerbread House said...

What a Bounty! Can we pack up and come live at your house? I'll help with the cooking and eating and Hubby will help with the dishes and eating :o) We don't do windows, who cares about what's going on outside anyway, with all the good stuff inside :o) Ginny

Leigh said...

Wow! What a fabulous food storage! Gorgeous photos. You two are such an inspiration for the rest of us.

GetSoiled said...

Like, seriously???? (**valley girl accent here**)

I hope you never make the huge mistake of posting your address somewhere online because I am positive people will be flying in from all over the globe to raid your pantry. Holy Frida Kahlo!!!! You are ready for doomsday! (and it all looks so SO delicious!!!!!)

GetSoiled said...

But you have no Oreos.

Mike said...

I am most impressed with the canning. This was our first year really canning so I get canning envy when I see other people's full pantry. Very nice.

Mr. H. said...

WeekendFarmer - If, with this post, I was able to put a smile on your face on a back to work Monday morning...then I am happy too.

Heiko - It sounds like a lot of tomatoes but keep in mind, much like olives, 5-7 lbs only make 1 cooked quart of sauce...or something like that. We did indeed have a very short season and that is why we spent the past few months living with all those pounds of tomatoes that took their sweet time ripening. Heck, I even started naming them after a while.:)

Lynn - The spring was wet and cold far too long making for a very short growing season but in the end we managed to pull it off. Trust me, we used every trick I could think of to make this another decent harvest year. I hope next year is a bit more forgiving weather wise. A little more rain for you and less for me.:)

Malay-Kadazangirl - Check out these links:) - http://www.survival-cooking.com/2009/08/preserving-nasturtium-seeds-like-capers.html





Geno - Happy holidays to you too. Winter is here in all of it's glory and I hope that this means good business for you. I am glad that we are able to share our way of life with you and others through this blog and appreciate that you find the information to be of some benefit.

6512 and growing - Yes, we work hard all summer and then spend the cold months enjoying the results of our labor. Happy chowing to you too.:)

Ginny - Ah, someone to help out in the kitchen would be nice...and help with the dishes would really be nice. Are you sure you have talked this over with your husband....and do you know how much snow we have.:)

Leigh - I could easily say the same about you.:) It does feel good to have managed to store up enough food for the year and is quite empowering to know that we can do so.

Getsoiled - Fortunately for us there will soon be so much snow around our neck of the woods that no one will ever manage to make the drive out here...so we are safe for a while anyhow.

Nope, no Oreos...not even one. Do you have any idea how wound up that grandson of ours would be if he got into a bag of oreos? But we did make some of these the other day and boy they were good ↓ http://senseofhome.blogspot.com/2010/11/oatmeal-fruit-cookies.html

Mike - You guys did one heck of a lot of food preserving yourselves...all those grapes, apples, canned tomatoes and other stuff. It looks like we will both have plenty in the pantry this winter.:)

Kumi said...

This is amazing! I hope to one day be able to do half as much as you do to preserve/store home-grown produce. Thank you for the link to a Ginger Pear Sauce recipe. I'm sure to try this one!

el said...

Amazingly impressive as usual.

Other than poor Micki getting tormented by that bat, which one of you has to go check all that root-cellared stuff? Is the temp. down there consistent? Hopefully it's a perfect temperature so things just don't spoil on you at all. I will say though that those coolers and all that wrapping up/sand, etc., probably keeps things nice and moist and edible for a long freaking time.

Great work!

Mr. H. said...

Kumi - I think you will really like that recipe. We made ours with pears again this year because they do not hold up in storage very long but we do hope ttry Lynn's original recipe using apples next year.

El - Thanks, the tricky part with our root cellar, besides the occasional bat flapping around down there, is the month of October, it is hard to get the temperature below 50°. By mid November though we can usually keep it just below 40° and if it drops below 35°in January I put an oil heater on low for a few days. It is usually in the 35-45°range all the way into April and still pretty darn cool well into June.

We are getting record snow for the month of November so everything under row covers should remain well insulated this year if I can keep them from collapsing.:)

Buttons said...

Hello I just wanted to say the more I look at your photos and hear what you have in the cellar, the more I want to live in your house for the winter.mmmmmmm

Truly an inspiration.

kitsapFG said...

A well stocked pantry and cellar can give one goosebumps to look at! I love the large jars of dried beans, chests of root crops, baskets of onions, and shelves of canned goods. The diversity and completeness of the food supply for a family is inspiring. People really do not understand how much food it really does take to eat well for a year. Since most people have it come in to their homes in bags from the store on a almost weekly basis - the actual totality of what is consumed is rarely understood.

You both did a tremendous job putting food by for the winter given the challenging year we had as growers. Well Done!

villager said...

That is an amazing amount of food you have preserved! Just looking at all the canning jars makes me tired thinking about the work involved. It is such a nice feeling to have plenty of food stored away. Our stores don't begin to match yours in diversity and numbers, but we'll not starve. ;-)

Mr. H. said...

Buttons - Make sure to bring a few of those cows along.:)

Laura - It is amazing how much food a person goes through in a year. I was trying to figure it out the other day and came to the conclusion that between the two of us, the grandson, and all the animals we go through roughly 4,000 lbs (or more) of food each year...that's a lot of food. Lets hope that we are blessed with an early (warm) spring and long summer in 2011.:)

Villager - For the longest time we kept all of our food in the root cellar, frozen, or dried and never canned anything. The last couple years we have started canning, waterbath only, and I really enjoy doing so. That said, I am very glad to be done with it for the year.:)

Mavis said...

You people are ROCK STARS!!!

Seriously... I'm beginning to think you have underground tunnels with a whole underground village in that basement of yours. Awesome job!

Mr. H. said...

Mavis - You know, and underground tunnel would be nice if I could make from the garden to the root cellar...hmm.:)

Ms. Adventuress said...

Abundance! I am so intrigued by every little thing you two post. So lovely!

(Yes, that deficiency info is so interesting...and I have a few personal lessons I'll be sure to share in a few weeks, with all.)

Mr. H. said...

Mrs. Adventuress - I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on that topic of diet deficiency and such.:)

Wendy said...

oh my geeyaaaad! You're going to have to build an addition to store all that.

It's so so gorgeous though - especially the pantry with the beautiful selection of delicious foods.

Eliza J said...

I really appreciated seeing how you store potatoes and onions. I grew potatoes this year, but can't store them in the basement, as it is too damp. After a couple weeks, in an open box, they were very musty. Maybe.....a "cooler" would do the trick. Your list of canned goods is incredible! This was also my first year canning tomatoes and sauce. They did not come out "perfect", but it all has been a learning experience. I added lemon juice, and nothing tasted good at all until I added sugar when I cooked it. Do you make your "favorite" sauce to can, or go by Ball Blue Book? I use a hot water bath and would be prefer my own sauce, but am not sure if that is okay. Great blog ~ so glad I found you, and thanks for all the wonderful info!

Mr. H. said...

Wendy - Thanks.:) We alway seem to find a place to put everything but it can be challenging at times.

Eliza J - Potatoes keep good at a temperature around 35 - 45°with high humidity (90%). We just mound ours in a pile on a tarp in the basement where they keep for a very long time under those conditions. I might shy away from using a cooler for them though as it could be a bit too airtight and cause the potatoes to rot.

As far as canning goes I do play around with my recipes a lot but am very, very careful to get the proper acidity by consulting the ball and other canning book recipes. If you want to be really creative it might be best to think about using a pressure canner...we have been thinking of doing this ourselves.

Thanks for visiting our blog.:)

Dirty Girl Gardening said...

Oh my god! I'm in love with those pictures... such abundance! That is gorgeous... I wish we were neighbors.

Elizabeth said...

Look at all of the rewards you have for such hard work. You are blessed.

Ruralrose said...

O is that why jars break - this is the number one reason I don't can. It is so heartbreaking. I will warm my next batch to see. Thanks for the story link a little present for me. I dry capers and papaya seeds and grind them with pepper corns. Great post, you are becoming quite famous! Peace

Chris Brock (under the mulberry tree) said...

congratulations on such a magnificient harvest. Your soil must be fabulous (eek! - mine has a long way to go). i look forward to some saeurkraut and kimchi making in the fall, but still have my supply in the fridge at the moment.

Mr. H. said...

Dirty Girl Gardening - I guess that we will have to be content with sharing our love of food and gardening as internet neighbors.:)

Elizabeth - It truly is a blessing have the good fortune of living in this country and being able to live the way we do.:)

Ruralrose - I suppose there are always a few drawbacks in every endevour we might take on but I must say that I have really enjoyed canning our food this year...even though it was a bit of work.

I have not beem able to read the whole story in the link yet but am really looking forward to having the time to finish it as I love her writing style and the time and place that everything took place.:)

I like what you do with your capers, papaya, and peppercorns...very interesting combination.

Chris - We really have been most fortunate to live in a place that has good soil to start with and all we really have to do is maintain it. I am truly looking forward to seeing your garden grow in this new location and have no doubt that you will be able to improve upon your soil over time.

We had sauerkraut on top of a lentil dish we made last night and it was really good that way.:)

Anonymous said...

Inspirational preserving. That lot will certainly keep you going until summertime, even if you should get snowed in anytime.

They bring some much needed colour to your shelfs at this time of year too. A beautiful bounty. Bravo!!

Mr. H. said...

Contadina - Thank you.:) It is very reassuring to be able to sit back and know that we have enough food stuffs put away to get through the winter months...and the colors are nice too.

foodgardenkitchen said...

Well, I'm very late to the party, but this is just inspiring, not to mention impressive.

Annnightflyer said...

Excuse me for a minute while I pick up my jaw off the floor,looking at all that!

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