(I discovered this post languishing in a forgotten corner — I actually wrote it last spring. So please forgive my lateness and think spring equinox rather than fall equinox!)
This is the time of the year when you find out how good your crystal ball was last year. When you try to feed yourself from what you grow, you have to calculate what you need before you grow it, breed it or butcher it. Pantry stock-taking is the routine about now, so I can tweak the system for next year. I’ve spent the last week or so rummaging around at odd moments to figure out what we have too much of or too little of. Unlike Goldilocks, I almost never manage to get it just right.
Winter goodies for toast, sauces and jam cake!
Each year brings a new wrinkle. For example, my cowboy husband has been adamant for many years that he doesn’t like lamb, won’t eat it, etc. When he was much younger, his family raised wool sheep, and the older animals often made their way to the dinner table. I kept telling him, that was mutton, not lamb — there’s a big difference. Wool sheep also produce lanolin, which permeates the fleece and meat. Apparently, it’s the lanolin that gives the meat the taste he finds so disagreeable. We, however, raise Katahdin sheep, which are a hair sheep and don’t have lanolin in their fleece. When I convinced him to try some of the lamb we butchered a few months back, I was pleasantly surprised to have him say it tasted good and he actually liked it. The positive aspect is that it’s expanded my dinner main dish repertoire. The downside is it means I need to be sure we have room to put lamb in the freezer in addition to the chicken, pork, beef, turkey, fish, venison, fruits and vegetables.
Early morning sheep.
We definitely did not have enough fermented vegetables. They were such a hit that I ran out of my fermented dill pickles a good five months before I can expect to have cucumbers again. I also found that the fermented pickled beets went over well with most of the family; hubby and the oldest granddaughter were the outliers. That’s OK, we’ll eat their share. Note to self — plant a lot more beets this year.
First pickle batch of the year.
I’ve never, never, never wound up with leftover tomato products, and this year was no exception. I hope to double my production now that we have the big garden up and running. I’ll process everything I can, and we’ll just have to see what happens. We’re OK for veggies; still have corn and spinach left, for example, and the kitchen garden will shortly be delivering peas, potatoes, lettuce and other salad crops. The asparagus showed up a while back, but it’s petered out quickly. I’ve been thinking for a couple of years that we probably needed to build a new asparagus bed sometime soon. Soon has just become now; come fall, we’ll find a good spot, dig a new bed and load it up with soils amendments, then transplant all these old crowns. That should do it for me, as asparagus beds can produce for 50 years if well-cared for, and I doubt I’ll have to make another one in my lifetime.
Volunteer lettuce in the strawberries.
We should have enough meat. I have half a beef, two pigs and two sheep in the freezer. For the first time since he was 12, hubby didn’t get a deer, primarily because he was concentrating on helping the oldest granddaughter get one. However, she also came up empty. Not a calamity, since we have so much other meat, but we usually make venison salami, so we won’t have any this year. The only thing that worries me is we butchered much later in the year than we usually do, and I’m really hoping we’ll have enough meat shifted out to have room for other stuff once the garden starts to produce and I have butcher chickens to put in. Daughter Dear now has a small chest freezer, which gives us a bit more space, but I suspect I’m going to wish I had another big upright freezer before the year is through. (I only have two now, plus a freezer/fridge side-by-side and three small top freezers on various refrigerators.) In addition to the meat for us, we have chicken balls, which are the fist-sized clumps of ground meat and fat I feed our chickens for extra protein. I also feed meat scraps to the dogs and cats. I’ve got various meaty bones to make stock with, too, and that will quickly clear some space. I still have a few meals of Coho salmon that I should use up.
Look at that nice yellow butter!
I didn’t freeze enough butter while the cow was in milk. Since we eat much less bread than we once did, we don’t go through as much butter as we used to. Still, I thought we had enough to get by. I just plain misjudged this one. Given our decrease in the bread department, I have plenty of flour left, as well as cornmeal, oatmeal and assorted small grains, all from the local mill about 35 miles away.
Baby pigs are just plain cute.
We had plenty of extra applesauce and apple and plum puree. Many fruit trees tend to alternate bear and last year was a heavy year for the apples, wild plums and apricots. We will need to gather more elderberries. They make a good eating syrup for pancakes and ice cream, but I also need them for an immune-boosting tonic we’ve found very useful during cold and flu season. On the other hand, I didn’t get enough Damson plums to make a single batch of jam. More blackberries this year; I’m inclined to suspect that I could fill every freezer with blackberries and it still wouldn’t be enough.
Blackberries – it’s what’s for breakfast!
I have lots of tallow rendered, and another two boxes of meat scraps still at the butcher’s plus one of lard in my own freezer that I need to render.
And of course we have other stuff on the shelves that I can’t raise: olives, olive oil, cornstarch, baking soda, cream of tartar. I usually buy those in large containers or case lots, as they store well.
We certainly won’t starve…