Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

This year, instead of a vacation, Hub and I decided to invest in food. Don’t laugh. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, food prices are skyrocketing. (http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/104914/Load-Up-the-Pantry). With news about Peak Oil/Hubbert’s Peak, climate changes, water shortages and food riots foremost in our minds, we decided to store food and water, plant a garden, compost, “go green.” Sharon’s Food Independence Days Challenge provided the incentive and encouragement we needed to get it in gear. Problem is, we live in a plastic neighborhood with tiny trees and a homeowner’s association. So how does one go green in this setting? How do we recreate our own Golden Acre?
Our first order was to line up additional medications. We increased the size of our first aid kit. Bought a half dozen large boxes of matches and gathered all the candle making supplies together. That was easy enough.

55-gallon water tanks are one of our first priorities. We plan to fill and seal two barrels and place them in the garage as an emergency water supply. Then the other barrels will be stationed at the downspouts from the gutters. With proper screening and a spigot we can provide water for our gardens almost all season. I say “almost” because with climate changes I’m not sure if we’ll catch the usual 10,000 gallons of water.

Learn how to properly store food. Peggy Layton has an excellent book titled Food Storage 101: Where Do I Begin? In the book she outlines a six month plan for stocking up. I’m still in the process of organizing the larder. More on that later.

Recycle. We used old Pepsi bottles (Hub is addicted) to store grains and beans. We use the plastic Tidy Cat containers to store charcoal, seeds, bird food and cat food. My son Jacob suggested we use any glass bottles to create a wind garden. You plant the bottle open end up and when the wind blows across the top, you hear music. We save jars for storage. Other than that, our recycling is all paper, mostly junk mail.

Compost. We have three stages of compost here. The rawest is in a garbage can beside the real garbage can. Scraps go into that, then a layer of dirt, then a layer of dung and so on until the can is full. Then the contents are dumped out on the ground in the back yard and covered with more compost. My son Zach put up a lattice fence and planted morning glories to hide the compost. After that pile has aged it will go into the courtyard corner in a pile. We also sport a 4 ft high pile of gourmet compost in the same yard.

This week for the food challenge I did these things:
Planted peas, limas, bush beans, tomatoes, basil, cukes, okra. We’ve started zucchini, pumpkin, and squash. We’ve kept the gardening loose in style so that from a distance the vegetables look like flower vines and shrubs. We’ve planted herbs in the veggie beds, and marigolds in all the beds as a natural pest repellant.

Harvest: I harvested a bushel of lime mint that I’m drying for tea.

Prep: Bought a pressure cooker and four dozen Ball jars with extra lids and bands for canning. Marked off wildflower patches for bees in preparation of getting a hive next year.

Store: Placed a large coop order for six different kinds of beans, sunflower seed, sprouting seed, a gallon of honey, flax, oats, popcorn and brown rice. These foods come in 6-gallon pails and have been sprayed with nitrogen to kill infestation. I store mine with a few organic bay leaves scattered throughout the bucket as a preventative. I use gamma lids on buckets that I frequently open and the rubber-seal lids for foods that I open every once in a while. From Walton Feed we ordered dehydrated peppers, corn, celery, carrots, mushrooms, as well as 50# baking soda, bouillon, blueberry muffin mix, granola, dry milk, biscuit mix, tomato powder, and potato flakes. We haven’t used dehydrated carrots or celery yet, but thought we’d try using them in soups. Instructions for rehydrating foods can be found in Peggy Layton’s Food Storage 101 book.

Learn Something New. My newest new thing is learning to blog. Bear with me.
Contribute to local food systems. We still shop the local farmer’s market and we’ll buy our produce for canning from local farmers. We spread compost around our neighbor’s tree and gave him some seed.

Friday, May 23, 2008