This is the time of year when I stand back in the kitchen, breathe a sign of relief and think to myself, thank goodness all the food is put away for winter.
I am not quite done yet. There is always a day or two of lose ends to tie up but we are in the final stretch.
I’ve been asking myself if all of this work is worth it. I thought I would share a bit about what it’s been like for me and finish with my decision on the value of this type of work in my life.
No doubt about it, this year was a hard one.
Drought. Bugs. Humidity. Scorching heat. I could have killed for some blue skies and gentle breezes throughout the summer. It was truly merciless. I was starting to question my choice of lifestyle and goals a bit. Growing most of what you eat is really bloody hard. (or at least that’s what I’ve experienced).
The garden work is followed by spending weeks in the kitchen scrubbing, chopping, peeling, freezing, dehydrating and bottling the food up for storage in the pantry. I ended up with tendinitis from chopping so much, constant back aches and just fatigue.
That said, every time I would unload a canner and set the jars on the counter to cool, I would feel like I’ve accomplished something big. That jar started with a seed that we’d lovingly saved from previous harvests. It is somehow miraculous and empowering.
A pantry like this is not romantic at all until the work is done.
Then I’m like .. This. Is. So. Cool! Come look at my pantry!
I still get a big kick our of looking at all of the colourful jars lined up in the pantry. It feels like I’ve warped back in time every time I step into this room. I feel like a real kitchen witch. It was worth all of the work and you know what? Every year we get more efficient and better at what we do.
We know what’s inside those jars; organic food, preservative and chemical free. This food supports our health. Also, as winter arrives I’ll be planning and itching to get back at it again. I might be weary of it today but it is a passion, perhaps even an obsession, and a great life challenge. I learn each year, and adapt so that we garden easier and produce more food.
We have so many herbs and natural medicines lined up on these shelves. These shelves make my heart sing.
The bounty of garlic we’ve harvested is so rewarding. I remember the days of buying only one bulb from the store and it being so expensive. We’ve got well over 100 bulbs in the house.
We have some onions and squash as well and the windfall apples that must be transformed into apple butter, wine and apple cider ASAP. They’ve got bruises and bumps and wont keep long.
These tomatoes were picked green weeks ago and we’ve kept them in a cool dark place to slowly ripe. The freezer is filled with bags of tomatoes that I have not had time to turn into sauce yet.
OMG! The beans, I have a serious fascination with beans! Beans are so amazing. You can eat them young,fresh and green or let them dry into protein packed, shelf stable dried beans. So much nutrition and diversity not to mention beauty.
I though we would have buckets of dried beans with the rows we had planted and in the end … we did not. A lot of articles talk about how much food you can grow in a small space but reality is, sometimes you need space and land to grow a LOT of food – like beans.
The fridge is our cold storage and I’ll pack it with carrots and food we’ve fermented such as cabbage, grape leaves, pickles and garlic scapes. There’s always some pro-biotic stinkiness going on in my kitchen.
The freezer is packed with berries and I’ve started freezing food in wide mouth jars. I use a special food saver jar attachment to suck the air out and it works really well. This shelf is lines with pumpkin purée and cubed up beets. The trick is to use wide mouth jars – according to the foodsaver website they’ve been designed to be freezer safe.
The freezer bags we wash and re-use. There’s just too many berries to efficiently use jars so I confess – we do use plastic but we’ll wash it and use it again and again.
We still have wine, apple cider vinegar and other ferments bubbling and burping in various stone crocks and jars around the house. There’s a lot of life in the kitchen.
Our home brew wine rack. A lot of this wine needs to age a year at least for the best enjoyment. We’ve discovered that patience really does improve these wild crafted home brews. This rack should be full soon.
When you take that seemingly massive pile of food from the garden, clean it up, pack it into jars and discover that you’ve ended up with a mere 7 quarts of food for all that work – it really puts things into perspective. It is a bit reality check about how much food and work goes into all those jars we buy from the store. This awareness humbles me and fills me with gratitude.
We haven’t got full control yet. There are still supplies that we choose purchase such as salt, pepper and other spices.
Certain staples are quite essential to our happiness and diet such as wheat, rice, cheese and other basic staples. We are not hardcore – we’d like to be, but we would be quite hungry by spring if we were to live off what we’ve grown. We are still learning.
Keep in mind, it wasn’t that long ago that I was a business professional. I always gardened but never at this scale and certainly not with so much at stake. I grew up in a place where it was too cold for agriculture (although there has been some exciting advances in this area in the past decade) and had no one to teach me the ways of a more self sufficient life. This was all new to me and my husband and here we are, figuring it out.
Not every day is perfect, but we are happier, healthier and learning new skills every single day. I might complain when my body aches and there is a mountain of food in the kitchen but it is also the most beautiful thing, and the moment I put another jar of nourishing home grown food on the shelf, I know that all the work it took to arrive at this moment was worth it. We wouldn’t have it any other way.