There’s a dictum I heard for the very first time, and then multiple times, over the last few days which applies to how I feel at the moment; before a crisis most preparation seems excessive and yet during the crisis feels inadequate.
In terms of food nearly everyone who saw our pantry made a comment or a quip about pasta and beans or the like. If they noticed our two kitchens had two refrigerators with two freezers packed with food the jests would only be magnified. If you’ve read any of Johnny Sanphillippo’s posts on food storage, and shame on you if you haven’t, it won’t surprise you to hear that in comparison we are absolute pikers and this pandemic is giving us time to see and understand what we need to do take our preparation to the next level.
In this particular emergency electricity hasn’t been an issue but if it had been it’s easy to see that our stores of protein and other things would have been inadequate. Liz does a great job of canning tomatoes and relishes and things which don’t require pressure canning but when she makes a bit too much Hungarian goulash or pumpkin soup we freeze it. That has worked fine, but it’s easy to see any number of circumstances in which having her beef stew sitting on a shelf would be preferable to it taking up more space in a freezer.
Our gardening has intensified every year now for a decade, and given the fact that we seem to be inextricably caught up in this aging process, we’ve tried to move more and more toward perennials or near perennials like fruit trees, strawberries, grapes, asparagus, blueberries, and (a so far failed experiment in) hazelnuts. There is some nutrition in that distribution, as well as some seasonal variation but there’s not a lot in the way of calories. We don’t ever expect to be able to satisfy all of our nutritional needs from our little urban garden plot; La Granja. However adding some beans and potatoes to our usual mix of tomatoes, peppers, pumpkin, cucumbers, and lettuce is probably a good idea.
I’m happy with our water storage situation. As soon as the forecast showed an all clear regarding solidly below freezing temperatures, which is to say last weekend, I hooked up the rain barrels: they filled up in one rainstorm. The next day I hooked up the tote and…voilà: hundreds of gallons of water to keep our plants thriving. Liz has really taken to worm-farming and so our composting has really improved. The worms make some truly fine soil for planting, leaves and coffee grounds in one compost barrel give us some slightly less refined soil, and we use the kitchen waste compost at the base of any new beds or planters. The “worm tea” gives us liquid fertilizer, and I’ve spread the ash from the wood stove around liberally in the “orchard”.
Our relationship with Copper Hill Farm has given us real peace of mind. The farm is thriving more than ever in the current circumstance and they find themselves selling nearly all the produce they have available, with eggs being truly “a box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid”! I recommend you…yes you…do the same. Find a local farmer, figure out some way to go above and beyond to help them survive economically with an understanding that at some future time they’ll be there for you. Greg shares our views on many, many things and our relationship is personal and meaningful. Use your social networks, I guarantee that somewhere nearby there’s a small scale farmer that could use some back-up.
I think that food price inflation is inevitable given the current circumstances. To stay ahead of it our plan is to do more dry storage of grains, beans, and legumes that we use all the time anyway, and to slowly over time use pressure canning to store the excess of what Liz makes us for lunch and dinner all the time anyway. We plan to continue to scale up our growing while we add more seed saving, indoor growing, and cold framing of lettuces and greens.
The lesson from my parents’ basement stays with us however: my parents level jumped from having some extra cans of soup and such along with some powdered milk in the basement to buying hundreds of pounds of soy product which they stored in barrels which, surprise surprise, after 40 years were only disposed of by leaving them out in the backyard for deer to feed on. It was nasty.
Lesson: Don’t go too far too fast.
I hope where ever you are preparation wise this experience is useful in helping you plan for the next, inevitable, discontinuity.