Scrounged apples from one of 9 neglected trees on neighbor’s land: spotty but delicious Jonathans
How to do it? How to do ANY changing in terms of one’s habits? Well, don’t jump in feet-first. Start small. Remember, this is what I am trying to do with the Eat Local Challenge:
My goal, again, in taking this challenge was not for me, but rather as a tool of conversion. If others of you start gardening, or gardening more, or getting a greenhouse, or buying a freezer and starting to can stuff, I will feel so gratified!
Start gardening: it’s now autumn in this hemisphere. Now’s the perfect time to bust some sod to build some garden beds! Not so strong? Well, you probably can lift newspapers or flatten old cardboard boxes, and rake up bags of leaves or lawn clippings. Read up on lasagne gardening a la Ruth Stout. Even if that’s not the way you envision yourself gardening (I don’t garden that way), it is a sure way to start making garden beds this fall.
Gardening more: Make new beds now! Also, look at what it is you had been growing if you were a vegetable gardener. Is there anything you LOVE that you hadn’t bothered to try this year, like broccoli or beets? Make some space next year and promise yourself you’re going to grow what you know you will eat. Chuck the things you wasted, like all those zucchini. Consider the idea of succession planting, instead of that one back-breaking spring planting day you did this year (you know who you are). Spring/summer/fall (and even /winter) is a lot of growing. This could mean three crops of lettuce, two crops of summer squash, five crops of carrots…all in the same space in one “growing” season.
Buying a freezer: Well, this is a big step, financially. However, if you are in the habit of shopping weekly and picking up, say, one cut-up chicken, one package of ground beef, and one package of bacon I have news for you. You are wasting money. Instead, you could hook up with a local farmer and buy 20 chickens (whole or cut-up), a quarter of beef and a half a hog and your meat needs would be met for most of the year. Don’t think you can do half a hog? Find a friend, or two! Start a buyers’ club! Again, this is another big bite in the wallet: start small, save now, and consider all the gasoline and TIME you will save next year. (Plus, learning what one can do with half a hog can be quite fun.) Half of my freezer is devoted to frozen fruit, veggies, meat stock, and flour, so it ain’t just about the meat. And chest freezers are a lot more energy-efficient than upright ones: they don’t dump their cold air out every time you open the door. Sears is the best nation-wide store that offers the most types.
Starting to can (or freeze) stuff:
- Sourcing: Your biggest friend in the world of preservation is your local farmer’s market or U-Pick farm. For regular vegetable eating, you can also join a CSA (again, worried about “but that’s too much stuff for our house” then find a friend) and ask the CSA farmer if you can help them glean at the end of a crop’s season: you can get the stuff they can’t give away (like spotty tomatoes). Also, canning or freezing is usually the response one has to bounty. Having a CSA share does not mean one will have “bounty,” but…do you know of any untended fruit or nut trees near you? Ask the owner if they wouldn’t mind sharing. Is there anything that your neck of the woods does comparatively well, like oranges or maple syrup or peaches or corn? Then go nuts and get a bunch of it.
- Equipment: Go to Goodwill and pick up used canning equipment. Garage sales are likewise great places to find things, especially the jars themselves. Old-time hardware stores and even some grocery stores sell boiling-water bath kettles, and canning equipment like the jar lifter and jar funnel you’ll need. Canning jars are easily found, luckily; but make sure you have lots of sealing lids; you will go through a lot.
- Great equipment: Really seriously consider purchasing a pressure canner (quite different from a pressure cooker): unlike the pickles and jams and fruit your boiling-water bath can do, all low-acid stuff can be put by via the pressure canner. Soup to nuts, I kid you not; you can even can milk, or meat!
Getting a greenhouse: This is a big step, but not if you are a gardener itching for a winter salad. I had been dreaming about a greenhouse for YEARS before mine came to be. Start small by doing a PVC hoop house or a cold frame with a bunch of used windows. But if you really do want to dig in and get a big one, by all means DO IT.
SO get busy and start gratifying me!