Saturday, April 18, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - More ponderings on the importance of experience

I've been busy getting the garden ready for when we plant in May.  Last fall the circumstances came together that caused me to leave the garden as it was and not clear it as usual.  I did get all the plants pulled out of the ground but they stayed where they were left until now.  So it has not been easy or fun but it is all getting accomplished... a little at a time.

We must get the new chicken wire fence up before we plant but Hubby doesn't want to use the remaining chicken wire we've stored in the garden shed.  This one rusted in a couple of years.  A rust free version is a must purchase this time.  Live and learn...

Which is where my ponderings have been again this week.  I know I've written about the subject over and over but then I come up against that Truth again and feel the overwhelming need to share it.  All from learning the hard way that experience is just as important as stocking up in a Pantry Lifestyle.

When I was one of the Administrators of a preparedness forum, I spent a lot of time with my ear to the ground about what people were sharing about their preparedness efforts.  Back then the only people talking about the role of experience were basically the homesteaders.  They, too, learned the hard way.

I would read that many people felt they were prepared for any emergency because they had a cellar full of dried food, buckets of wheat, and a canister of hermetically sealed seed packages.  Should the proverbial pooh hit the fan (so to speak), they would pull everything out of the cellar and live happily ever after.

How shocked they would have been if they have never gardened to find they have to prepare the soil, add nutrients (especially if there is no compost), and that some vegetables do not grow well just by planting a seed in the ground... or that it pays in the long run to buy the higher priced chicken wire for your garden fence as it does not rust!

I have now been gardening at this location for about eight years and I'm only now accepting the fact that tomatoes don't grow well in the current garden location.  Not until we expand our garden out more away from the tree line can they get enough direct sunlight to grow strong and healthy.  But I do know what does grow well so I'm concentrating on green beans, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, and other veggies that can take partial shade. 

I long ago decided to let the apple mint take over the raised bed that gets mostly shade (although the garlic chives and sage are holding their own in one corner).  I now realize that one should not grow lovage next to bee balm as they both get huge!  So eventually one will be moved from where it grows now but I don't have to make that decision this year.

Live and learn.  Definitely.

As for storing wheat, that is a good idea.  Wheat stores well.  I am using some wheat that is at least fourteen years old (from when I belonged to a food co-op) that is still good because it was stored in a bucket with oxygen absorbers.  It is a good source of nutrition! 

However... if one has never used the wheat in their pantry, they are in for a big surprise when they pull it out of the cellar.  Unless they have a way to grind it, good luck making it into flour.  Even if they have a wheat grinder, if they are expecting all purpose white bleached flour... they are in for another surprise.  So is their digestive track.

That is why your pantry (however deep you make it) should contain food you already cook and bake with and serve your family.  

A possible exception to that rule would be good quality food prepared for long term storage, the kind you can add boiling water to and have a meal.  They are fine if you 1) have little space for stocking a deep pantry, 2) have the money, and 3) find a good source that does not have a lot of preservatives and chemicals in it. 

We all learn by doing something over and over again.  I think that is also why a recipe from Grandmother may not taste the same when we make it from her recipe card.  I know I've tweaked recipes and then not gone back and changed the original.  We have learned through the years what will add flavor, whether it is an ingredient or the technique we use to cook a recipe.

I keep learning all the time.  Currently I'm going back to making bread with the help of the mixer instead of one loaf at a time on the Dough cycle of the bread machine.  My ancient bread machine wasn't working right so I decided it was time to use the mixer and make a few loaves at a time (one now, one or two for the freezer).  After all, I do have that heavy duty Kitchen-Aid mixer.  So it came back to sit in a place of honor and out went the bread machine.

But it does take time to relearn the different way of making bread again.  Even though I used to make it by hand before I had a bread machine.  Which is proof we need continuing education, right?  ;)

Hmmmm... what else am I learning or returning to doing?  I've decided to make jam again after the price of the brand my husband can eat continues to go sky high.  I'm thinking of dehydrating certain foods again, sparked by a desire to find a better way to dry my herbs.  I'm definitely spending time perusing cookbooks and the Internet for good vegetarian recipes as the price of meat continues to rise.

So this year, if you have never gardened and you have the room... build a couple raised beds and see what grows best for your area.  If you only have a tiny balcony, grow some herbs.  If you live in Manhattan in a a one room apartment, research what grows without direct light.  The thing is, we all need to be learning something new and practicing what we already know.

Which is why I read cookbooks by homesteaders when I know I'm not going to live on a homestead.  I need their experience and their recipes in my own life and small garden.

Image:  Rooster and Four Chickens:


Lee Ann said...

Does that preparedness site still exist? Do you mind sharing it if so?

Thanks and I love your blog and your faith.

Sherry said...

we have very little sunshine space for a veggie garden. that said, i have three big barrels i plan to til the soil in today and head to the store for tomato plants and herbs. that much i can do. for now. in a perfect world i would have planned to rent a community garden space... :/

Vee said...

You have me chuckling at your fun comments. My son is on his third Kitchenaid so I don't think they hold up so well to bread making if one bakes a few loaves a week as my son does. I would love one of the more expensive bread makers. Alas, it just isn't that important yet and whatever will we do when the electricity is gone. I found a great pile of wood ash this neighbor has been dumping it all winter. He told me not to be alarmed...oh, I am not...I am now researching what I can accomplish with wood ash. Do you have a stirrup hoe or a hula hoe, Brenda?

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

Good thoughts about experience being a good teacher. I agree with storing what you cook with. We all can make bread without even a mixer, as our foremothers did, but they are sure helpful! Remind me to send you our sweet french bread recipe! Rachel makes it every month for Communion and everyone always says they like to take a big piece of bread because it tastes so good! Easy to make and its so amazing. Makes great sandwiches!


Thickethouse.wordpress said...

I mostly garden on the deck now, though I am always hoping that I'll be able to move back to the "real" garden....I know, as far as cooking goes, that with many things that I cooked at least weekly when I was cooking three meals a day for five people, I had a built in sense of time needed for something to be cooked properly. But after years of not doing this, I have lost some of that sense and need to redevelop it.
I liked to use the Tassajara sponge method of bread baking, but now I don't eat bread, not even whole wheat. But that was a satisfying way of doing the baking.

Kim Stewart said...

One of the ways I am adding to my skills is to expand my food preservation skills to include pressure canning and lacto fermentation. I've been canning for many years and have actually taught canning classes to women at my church but using a pressure canner allows storage of so many more types of foods. Plus one can take advantage of sales and seasonal harvests when you can get the food at a low price.

My experience has taught me to limit the amounts of food I preserve by freezing after several times losing all of our frozen food due to extended power outages caused by hurricanes hitting the Mid-Atlantic.

Well I'm off to pressure can some baby carrots that I got at Aldi's for 59¢/lb. and start a batch of sauerkraut made from 49¢ a head cabbage.