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The Rest of the Larder Story

March 3, 2016
March 2, 2016 Joi ChoiF1

March 2, 2016 Joi ChoiF1

I think if I were ever to write a book, it would be about teaching people to discern deliberately about farmsteading, or how to live a more deliberate life.  When we realize that three generations ago, many people were involved in some way with growing their food, or at least preserving it, it’s easy to see how we have lost our way.  On our journey to specialization and simplification we have lost many nuances of living close to the land.  It’s a no-brainer for me to understand why Jane can’t be on deep bedding, but my beef cows can, to the casual observer though,  Jane and my beef cows are cattle, and need the same things.  That’s true in the vaguest sense, but that is like saying a Prius and a 3/4 ton farm pickup are vehicles and can be used for the same thing.  Following me? I don’t say this to sound condescending, we all know what we know, I know a lot about farmsteading, and home economics, other stuff not so much.  But I have seen that many times people assume that farmers are dumb, and that you can just start out with a piece of land and farm and grow your own food, it’s easy right?  What’s to know? We all still have to put in our 10,000 hours making mistakes along the way.

What does any of this have to do with a well-stocked pantry or larder?  A lot.  Our larder is just an offshoot of how we live and farm, and our location.  The larder will also be a reflection of how you cook and eat.  We prefer moderation.  I don’t want to can everything, or dehydrate everything, ferment everything, freeze everything or eat everything raw.  So we do some of all things, canning, drying, fermenting, freezing, storing and fresh.  Many dishes from our kitchen are a combination of all these “preservation” methods.

(I should probably go out on a limb here and say we are not concerned with being “off-grid” except with our food supplies.  I have friends who say they are off-grid because their freezers are kept at a friend’s house and they pay a portion on the electric bill, I also have another friend who claims to be energy conscious by only keeping a small freezer for their preserved garden goods and purchased meats, but when pushed they cop to eating rotisserie chicken and many meals away from their home.  I guess I believe that it takes a certain amount of energy to prop up a human, if you buy food at the store, that food is still being kept fresh, frozen or stored on a shelf that is maintained by the grid.  So yes, you may have a small electric or gas bill, but a portion of your food is still using the grid, you just are paying for it each time you go to the store or restaurant.)

brooder
So how does one pull that off meals that come from all your different stores? You get creative, and you learn what and how to store food in many different ways.  It helps that we live in a great climate for year round harvesting, that is if you like root crops and members of the cole family.  Pictured above is the bok choy in the first photo, above it are the first starts (hanging on their mouse-proof shelf) of the parade of  successions that will be planted soon.  This is the hardest part of the year, the days are getting longer and last fall’s plantings of brassicas are starting to bolt, and the days are still short enough that new plants are growing slowly.  Hurry up and wait.  I don’t want to damage the new young plants by harvesting leaves, since they need all the leaf surface they can muster to grow larger, and we have to practically gorge (darn) on the bok choy, kale and cabbage before they get bitter.

kale
Yesterday’s greens harvest became this morning’s breakfast, along with some fried eggs.  But to prepare this breakfast, I had to be mindful last July and start those kale seeds, then again in August I had to start the bok choy.  Then you say a little prayer to yourself or whoever will listen, and you do your darnedest to watch over those winter garden plants as if your next meal depended on it.

fruitroom
You also make a backup plan.  This is where canning and freezing come in.  Some foods just taste better canned than frozen.  Dark cherries canned, while not fresh, taste much better than their frozen counterparts, probably due to the fact that you leave the aromatic pit in and after some time in the jar, that almond flavor seeps into the cherries and juice and is a great wintertime treat.  Canned carrots?  Yeah, not my favorite to eat since we can harvest them weekly from the garden all winter long and not bother with canning them.

carrots
But as a convenience food (convenience as in cooked, not necessarily heat and eat) coupled with frozen cooked chicken, I have the beginnings of chicken curry potpie, which we love.  I for one am not convinced that cooked food is dead food.  Explain to me the difference in this jar of carrots, that were dug fresh, prepped and processed for 25 minutes in a pressure canner from carrots that were prepped and cooked in a stew for hours on the stove?  A friend recently told me about trying a low oxylate diet that was helping with some of her food issues, so I looked into it, and was surprised to see that boiled carrots were lower in oxylates than raw?  Which I think proves there are so many things we don’t know about the foods we eat, and what effect they have on our bodies.  Taking a moderation approach to how we preserve or not is well worth looking at, me thinks.

ghee

ghee

I am fortunate that I live in an old farmhouse that was built in the era of home food storage.  These days of central heating and cooling along with the supermarket and refrigerated space have taken the food storage component out of house design.  Couple that inconvenient truth with the fact that most people don’t know what type of food stores well or how to store it, a well stocked larder can be somewhat of a conundrum.

What we store and where:

fruit room
Basement fruit room  – canned goods, ferments, ghee, onions, garlic, empty canning jars, & household supplies.

Winter squash February 2016

Winter squash February 2016

Unheated bedroom – Winter squash, dry beans in glass jars, dry corn in mesh bags, seeds in plastic storage boxes or totes.

100_8923
In the barn – potatoes in a straw bale “root cellar.”

sauerkraut

sauerkraut

 

kraut chi

kraut chi

Ferments are in a category themselves, room temperature, basement refrigerator?  Personal preference takes over on that.

EOS102_1038

The easiest storage method in our climate for many things is the garden.  Unless we get a doozy of a winter, most years we can leave carrots, beets, kale, cabbage, celeriac, parsnips, leeks, rutabagas and turnips in the ground and harvest as needed.  While I know that can’t be duplicated everywhere, it’s worth pointing out for folks that are new to gardening or to the Pacific Northwest in general.  But, if you don’t feel comfortable leaving root crops to chance, you can always root cellar, or put up in some way.

garlic

garlic

Long term food storage is not a bad idea, each system has it’s weak points, our weakest point is our freezers. I guess in the long run being prepared is what comes into play. I could can our meat in the case of a power loss, I have enough canning lids, jars, and propane to do that on a Camp Chef.  Meat is one of those things that you just don’t go out and harvest fresh like a salad.  On the vegetable side we are continually trying to close the gap in our succession planting.  Insurance comes in the way of some frozen vegetables in case we can’t harvest fresh, and retraining our supermarket/restaurant thinking away from the green salad every day days to more roasted root salads, or braised greens.  For us, it’s a continuing journey that is constantly changing bit by bit each year.

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. Martha permalink
    March 3, 2016 3:13 pm

    Well said.

  2. Lucy permalink
    March 3, 2016 3:26 pm

    I have to say from my perch on the line between zones 3 and 4 I am quite envious of your climate!

    • March 3, 2016 9:35 pm

      Same here, although theoretically we are zone 6b apparently (in Latvia, not the US) but I am looking at a foot of snow out there at the moment. Not as much as some years, but not easy for locating veg. Still we have had a string of warmer winters, maybe chance a few rows and put markers in for location purposes

      • March 4, 2016 6:26 am

        Joanna, we used to get predictable snow which was a great insulator, but we had to put in row markers for digging. Lately that hasn’t been the case, but I am sure we are about due for another 20 year “event” as the weather people call it.

        • March 6, 2016 3:42 am

          From what I hear it is be prepared for sheer unpredictability – interesting times

  3. March 3, 2016 3:27 pm

    love this series of posts. You are so far ahead of/behind the curve on provisioning, lol. I hope that book is something you’re seriously considering.

  4. March 3, 2016 3:29 pm

    When we lived in Ohio we had a huge garden and a very nice cellar in the side of the hill. I canned everything I got my hands on and filled the freezer. My parents raised a nice steer and we paid the butcher bill so we had meat all year. We moved to Florida and gardens are very hard to grow here, I make a sad attempt every year. we even built nice raised beds and they work better. This year my husband passed away so my attempts were kind of half hearted but I am trying again this growing season. I love seeing all the food you preserve and the different ways you do it. It brings back some fond memories. The work is hard but a bit relaxing to work in the soil and the rewards are very tasty. I read your blog regular and just had to say something when I saw all the jars in a line, beautiful.

  5. March 3, 2016 3:40 pm

    I’m always worried that if I leave root veg in the ground that (a) the wet winters will turn it to mush and/or (b) the bugs/critters will eat it. I take it you aren’t experiencing much of either.
    And man, oh man – I’m going to have to request a recipe for that beautiful Kraut chi – it looks delicious! and I love the name ; D

    • March 3, 2016 5:02 pm

      LFF, freezing will turn the veggies to mush, the rain not so much unless you have standing water. I think we might get more rain than you? 90″ about give or take sometimes up to 120″ Voles are the worst and are especially bad in new ground or ground with cover, they hate open soil. They don’t eat everything however and do disappear or are kept in check with a good crew of hawks, dogs, and cats. The only thing I am seeing that is troublesome lately is carrot rust fly, these last few warmer summers have brought them on, I have friends in the valley that always deal with them, and I am going to have to I think, because I am seeing more damage in some plantings.

      For the kraut chi I used the Choose Your Own Adventure Kraut from Ferment Your Vegetables, by Amanda Feifer because you can mix and match to what you have on hand. Per quart (I quadrupled the amounts because I had a lot of late cabbage to use up, but a quart is good to see if you like it or need to adjust the flavor) 1 1/2 lb shredded cabbage, 1/2 lb vegetable of your choice, I chose carrot, 2 Tablespoons onion, garlic, shallot or leek, 4 Teaspoons kosher salt, I used Celtic fine sea salt, 3 teaspoons spice of your choosing, combined or alone, I used Korean Chili flakes, and I added some fresh ginger minced. It’s ready to eat in about 3 or 5 days, and I just transferred it to the fridge then. We’re finding that we eat it a lot with beans, and barbacoa type-esque beef, it makes a great stand in for slaw or lettuce that way and adds a good kick with the chili flakes 🙂 #farmfusionfood

      • Jenny permalink
        March 5, 2016 8:36 pm

        I’m making kim chi right now! I love the idea of “choose your own adventure” recipes. That is kind of how I came up with the recipe that is now my go-to for kim chi. I eat it with scrambled eggs, on sandwiches, in burritos, as a side for biscuits and sausage gravy, and with plain rice, as well as the usual Asian foods.

        I’ve been making my own for 7 years and only recently tried my hand at kraut. I didn’t know I liked it until I tried home-made. These two are great for the fermenting novice!

  6. deb permalink
    March 3, 2016 4:41 pm

    Lovely series of posts… i want to shout from the rooftops to people to wake up amd begin to participate in the production of their own food. Truthfully, you are doing what we all shoild be doing, to the extent possible. Yesterdays post was amazing.. thats the most meat I have ever seen in one place!

  7. Trish permalink
    March 3, 2016 4:52 pm

    So when is your book coming out? ;-o

  8. March 3, 2016 5:07 pm

    Good point about houses not being designed for food storage any longer. Because we’ve been ‘renovating’ (😂 using the term loosely) for the past decade, our 600 sq ft house is now a whopping 900 unfinished – and it’s been deliberately designed for food prep/preservation/storage and all the paraphernalia one needs to accomplish that. If we ate in restaurants or bought our food from the store – I could easily have a smaller house.
    I would love to be ‘off grid’ – have some friends that are – but it’s a lot more work than people think. Mind you – by definition, I consider off grid not to include solar or wind – these friends rely occasionally on a small generator when needed, and propane for their fridge. They’ve got me beat in the hard work department. 😄

  9. Michelle permalink
    March 3, 2016 6:23 pm

    I am constantly glee ing your posts for new things to try. One thing that I am so thankful to you for teaching me is that root veg can stay put over winter here. I don’t know if I would have tried it otherwise. Your storage room reminds me of my grandmother’s basement. I’d swear your shelves were built by the same person. They look exactly alike. Thanks again for sharing all of your knowledge and insight; trials and errors. You truly are a gem, a goddess of gardening.

  10. March 3, 2016 9:57 pm

    This question is very off topic (sorry): at 3 months old how do you transition your calf to take all the milk from the second milking? Not let her nurse but once a day? Or take almost all the milk @ the first milking and let her nurse the rest but since you’ve taken some she’-s not full hungry enough to take all the milk @ the second milking? We are almost @ three months with our first calf. She’s been a great relief milker but we’re coming up to three months of twice a day milking and as she grows, I don’t want her to be shorted. But I don’t want the cow to be so depleted feeding a growing calf and growing humans on winter hay.

    Thanks!

    • March 4, 2016 6:31 am

      mtnmedx, our calf nurses twice a day, only taking our milk from one of the milkings, the calf does adjust to different size milkings, one milk meal is larger of course. You might want to take a small amount at first from the milking that you want the calf to take over, and build her up to the full amount over a week’s time so she doesn’t scour, then she should be able to handle the milking. At three months she should be eating a good portion of hay each day too along with her milk. Or as the grass comes on, the calf should be grazing too. How much is your cow giving?

      • March 4, 2016 10:22 am

        About 2 gallons per two milkings a day plus whatever the calf is nursing after we milk.

        Elizabeth

        • March 4, 2016 12:20 pm

          Mtnmedx, I meant total production. So are you taking 4 gallons, and leaving the calf a gallon each milking? So 6 gallons, 3 per milking? That calf needs at least a minimum of 2 gallons a day and more would be better if you can do without.

        • March 4, 2016 2:23 pm

          Hmmmm. Good to know. The calf looks really good so far. But she’s coming on to 3 months and taking more each week as she grows and I don’t want to burn out our sweet cow. We could easily do with less milk.
          Thanks for the info!

  11. March 4, 2016 5:28 am

    Love your blog!! I am just beginning to work on growing our food with a small garden and some chickens. It is a lot of work to get your mind around how to grow your own vs buying at the grocery store. It’s a big learning curve and I’ll probably be dead by the time I get it figured out, but the journey will be worth it! Thanks for the education, and write that book!

  12. Vicki Kler permalink
    March 4, 2016 6:33 am

    Thank you for all the time you’ve put into these posts and sharing your knowledge! Very enjoyable and motivational. I’ve got the meat and dairy larder full but need to work on the vegetable aspect. Wyoming has its own set of challenges.

  13. A.A. permalink
    March 4, 2016 7:39 am

    A long time since I last read your blog, and what wonderful posts all over to find! Thank you for your work!

  14. March 4, 2016 9:44 am

    Actually, you HAVE already written that book… your blog contains literally books worth of info! You just need to sort it out, add your wonderful photos and voila! It will be a best seller.

    LOVE your blog and I have learned so much. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Karen permalink
    March 6, 2016 10:19 am

    I agree with you when you say that cooked food is not dead food. Studies have shown that cooked carrots are higher in beta-carotene. If you cook tomatoes you obtain more cancer-fighting lycopene. Antioxidants are also found in cooked asparagus. Cooked mushrooms have more potassium. I like my spinach raw but benefits have been found if you cook it as well. When I say cooked I mean steamed or boiled, not microwaved.

  16. March 7, 2016 8:15 am

    Great post. We all have different things we deal with when it comes to how we grow and process food and what we’re willing to do to achieve these things. I admire people when they at least try….especially young people (I’m feeling my age speaking here). I know I’ve come to the conclusion that there are some foods I can’t grow but at the same time can’t be without and the ones that I can grow I will and I’ll do the work it takes. I’m still open to new things though too and I know that I’m not always right and that there are new and better ways….sometimes😋

  17. Carrie permalink
    March 8, 2016 4:33 am

    Just catching up with my reading. Excellent series of posts Nita, thank you.

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