Friday, September 25, 2009

On being self-sufficient

A city family, even in a small city, will be dependent on the grocery store and the basic utilities. The question nagging in the back of my head is this: How much of that is really necessary?

It's a small city lot that makes room for my garden behind the garage, a plot that has gotten a little larger over the years we've lived here. We grow a small amount of our food here, more a supplement than a significant amount of the family food supply.


I haven' t learned to can -- yet. I bought some of the supplies I need, and decided that next summer my project will be jam. The raspberries in the backyard yield almost nothing, and what little ripens goes to the birds before we even know it's there. But I do have rhubarb, and we have the farmers' market. Market strawberries, backyard rhubarb, and maybe raspberries and blueberries will make some J for our PBJs next summer.

I blanched and froze beans this year, both green and yellow, and a little bit of sweet corn, too. I have cartons of frozen rhubarb and grated zucchini frozen for winter baking. Soup stocks, turkey and chicken and beef, share the freezer space with the vegetables. When it's time to cook, I'll reach in the freezer instead of adding a commercially made mix to the crockpot.

The freezer is small, though. When Chuck picked it out, he wasn't thinking of putting up enough food for the winter. He and I both thought it would just be a convenience. Now, a few years later, I wonder if we need a larger one. But do we? What am I really planning?


If we grew or bought from the farmers' market more of our produce, we wouldn't need to buy it from the grocery store. It would cost less purchased in season, and taste great when we cook it. It would be mainly organic, introducing fewer chemicals into our systems.


We could look into getting a dehydrator, something I've only read about. We have the storage space in the basement, but it's a bit damp in fall and spring. Is it suitable for dried food? Need more research before I go farther with that angle.

Back to canning. Many vegetables and fruits become ripe just when I'm starting school, and it's just about impossible to spend the prep time in the kitchen that's really necessary. Or is it? Could I do enough of the work in July and early August to make this happen? I don't know.

My kitchen is so small it'll be hard to make room for a major process. Blanching the beans took up (I am not kidding) close to half the counter space.


But really, if we picked up another medium sized freezer, an upright perhaps, we wouldn't need to go shopping every week. We'd be able to pick up milk and orange juice and bunny food, buy meat in bulk on sale, but the veggies and fruits would be in the house already.


I'm dreaming, but it's a dream that could work out in the end. We're city people, so we're not going to put up a chicken house in the backyard. We'll just have to keep buying eggs from Chuck's coworker who does raise chickens. But learning to make our own jams, freeze our own tomatoes and peppers and herbs, can do more than just season our foods.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I love your spirit! I taught myself how to can this summer and I'm SO glad I did. Most of the die-hard farm families here make canning a family affair--several women do the work together which makes sense when you're talking bulk.
I will give you raspberries next year for jam, so count on that. You can come here and pick your own. The right breed of beans should start coming on in July and tomatoes will screw you over by not ripening until September every year because you are a teacher.

9/25/2009 8:54 AM  
Blogger Lisa Sharp said...

I really need to work on these things. So far my garden hasn't gotten me much (anything) this year but it's been a crappy growing season and it's my first try.

I have a tiny kitchen so for now it's hard to make myself do a lot of things I should. But it's all about steps and I'm getting there. :)

9/26/2009 3:36 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

Have you thought about joining a CSA next summer? The amount of produce you get is astounding (overwhelming?) and much of it can be frozen.

I guess the thing I'd do to change your plans is to get a generator. If you, God forbid, lost power on a huge freezer for more than a couple of days, all that work could be lost.

9/27/2009 6:40 AM  
Blogger Club 166 said...

I don't can, but my mom used to, and my sister still does. I think you're right in your assessment that it's a LOT of work.

If you get a bigger freezer, it will take more energy, which somewhat defeats the purpose of this, right?

Joe

9/28/2009 10:08 PM  

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