Rachel, a fairly new subscriber to TMG, asked me (via a comment in my last post) various questions about how I preserve my harvest. She was asking because she wanted ” to get an understanding of what it takes to become mostly self sufficient.”
Bill and I are far from self-sufficient. “Mostly” self sufficient comes closer. But even then when I think of the ways I’m dependent on others — I have a long way to go. But I continue to work on it.
More than anything I have a self sufficient attitude — or at least an independent attitude.
Bill and I spent a lot of years in poverty trying to do something that most everyone thought was next to impossible. If you don’t already know what the was — you may want to read my post Tending My Garden in the News.
We never “talked” poverty but there was plenty of evidence to tell anyone that was “looking” that we had hardly a penny to our name. But — other than just a handful — most people did not really “see” the obvious. Which was ok — because most of the time talking about your hardships just fortifies them in your own mind.
When you experience years and years (it was nearly 25 years for us) of doing without just about everything, it changes you — as you can well imagine. How it changes you depends a lot on you and the kind of training you’ve had on how to deal with yourself and hardships.
A lot of things I do today come from experiencing “how to do them” during those years we had to do them. Thus, I’m more self sustaining than many. Everything is relative of course — and as I mentioned earlier — we’re far from being really self sufficient.
That being said — here are the answers to Rachel’s questions plus some. If you need more explanation, just let me know.
How many people my Garden Feeds
Bill and I eat almost entirely out of the garden during the growing season. Even if we add something to the menu that was purchased like rice or pasta – the meal is based on what the garden is providing. Our garden is 2400 square feet (40 feet by 60 feet) and produces a lot.
If I have any guests for dinner, they get to enjoy the bounty also.
I use to grow for market so my garden fed more folks back then.
How Big is my Freezer?
Have a small chest freezer. From front to back is 21 inches. It’s 31 inches wide and is an inch short of 3 feet tall.
Have two refrigerators and use the freezer compartments of them as well.
What about Canning?
Use to can years ago. Had all the equipment and sold it when we moved to Virginia.
The big advantage to canning is that you’ll have some food if the power is out for a long period of time. If anything ever happens in this country that there are mass power outages than can’t be readily be fixed —- we’ll be in trouble if we only have frozen food.
The other side of the coin is that I don’t like canned foods. By the time most things go through all the heat and processing necessary to can — all the fresh out-of-the-garden taste is gone — not to mention nutrients. The only thing I wouldn’t mind having in jars would be my tomato sauce. And I’m not going to re-buy all the equipment just for that.
Don’t have a dehydrator. I’ve been thinking about getting one for two years. It’d be nice to dry tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, onions, and various fruits. But can’t figure out exactly where I would store all that and how well it would keep for me under the conditions I have.
Freezing is my Favorite way
My frozen food tastes so fresh and we really enjoy it. We finally got a small generator and as long as there is not a major disaster that prevents us from obtaining gasoline — we’ll be able to keep everything frozen. Otherwise — we’ll loose what we have.
In addition to food from my garden I try to keep a bit of grass fed organic beef and a few organic chickens in the freezer. (We don’t eat very much meat at all. When we do — it’s organic.)
Here are my goal amounts for frozen fruits and vegetables to carry us through the winter. Some years I don’t always make the goal amount.
- Strawberries — 8 to 24 pints (1 to 3 gallons) Plus we eat at least 1 cup of fresh strawberries a day during the season.
- Blueberries – 12 to 20 quarts (3 to 5 gallons) Plus we eat at least 2 gallons fresh in season.
- Raspberries – 8 pints (1 gallon) Also I press out about 2 pints of raspberry essence to freeze and use for desserts. We use the rest of the harvest in season.
- Figs — no more than 8 pints for use in smoothies. (Tastes like chocolate ice cream if you use frozen figs, frozen banana and frozen organic chocolate soy milk.)
- Tomatoes – 40 to 50 pints of roasted tomato sauce. (5 to 6 gallons) Plus I use many gallons of fresh tomatoes and sauce during the 5 to 6 months of tomato season. I also have a couple of gallons of tomato liquid for making soup. (This is the “clear” liquid that comes from cutting up the tomatoes before you roast them .)
- Peas – 12 quarts (3 gallons) – In most years we also enjoy at least numerous meals with fresh peas from the garden in addition to the ones I freeze.
- Peppers – 4 to 12 quarts of green peppers. We eat fresh peppers every day in season. And when red peppers come it’s heaven. I’ve never had enough red peppers to freeze, but if I did I’d want to fill the freezer. 🙂
- Snap beans 8 to 16 pints — all the rest we eat fresh.
- Spinach – 4 quarts for lasagna in the winter — if I have enough spinach
- The squash vine borer usually kills the squash before I can get enough to put up a gallon of zucchini milk. (I use it for making bread when I’m out of milk — and it makes better bread anyway.)
- Onions – I cure enough onions to eat fresh onions through January or February
- Potatoes – store well in the ground. I usually have enough potatoes for about 6 months.
- Winter squash – when I grow them I try to have at least a dozen on hand for winter. I did not grow them this year.
Everything else we eat in season — fresh from the garden
- Summer Squash
- Various greens
- Lima beans (If I get enough this year I’ll freeze.)
- Hakurei turnips
I’m going to try to save dried pinto beans for the first time this year.
Very seldom do we buy anything that is not organic.
In the winter I supplement our vegetables with organic cabbage, carrots, and broccoli from the store. Basically they’re the only vegetables I buy. Try to get potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm at least once during the off season if I can afford them.
I don’t buy any processed foods and make meals from scratch. I’ve been making my own bread, biscuits, crusts, etc. for almost 40 years. I use whole wheat flour.
Dried foods that I use especially in the winter include whole grain rice, dried pinto beans, whole wheat pastas. When I can get them I use various nuts, peanut butter, dried raisins and apricots.
Olive oil is used for fresh use and low heat cooking. For high heat cooking — sunflower oil. (Everything is organic — as I mentioned previously.)
I use a good quality honey to sweeten fruit cobblers, tarts, muffins and sweet breads.
I haven’t used white sugar or white flour in more than 40 years. (I keep a little white sugar on hand for guests if they want it.)
I hope you’ll find this information helpful and encouraging. As you can see Bill and I are far from self sufficient — but I’m always working towards that.
Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
Tending My Garden in the News
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