Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Here Lately

The nice thing about Facebook is it allows us to keep up with some of the doings of our friends and family.  This can, of course cause us occasional jealousy and consternation, but I suppose overcoming such difficult emotions helps us build character.
Recently Cousin Mary moved again. Her husband Adam is in the military so they are obliged to move about every time she gets unpacked. Kidding really, Mary's a very motivated wife and mom and she gets her house settled in record time.  She posted a picture of her basement storage space, which I swiped to post here. There are three occasions for greeeeen jellybeans here.

1-She actually has a basement.
2-She has food storage shelves to die for. Front-loaded canned goods shelves that automatically rotate your cans. I aspire to such shelves myself, but have no idea where we would put them.
    Plus, when I spoke to The Manimal about it a year or so ago, he thought it was a dumb idea. He stood the position that :
A-they are pricey.
B-we don't eat much in the way of canned goods.
C-he could build shelves of wood that would be cheaper and work well enough.

At the time I accepted his arguments because it's his house, he built it and I am dumb at least part of the time. So we've been going right on as usual with the green pantry cupboard and a bit of kitchen shelf space, and with no plan or rhyme or reason to our food system.

I have now had a full year to think this over and have formulated some reponses to the arguement that has been continuing in my head this whole long time.
 To wit:
A-Yes, the shelf system is pricey, but I have a job now and can buy them with my own money and for that matter fill them up with my own money too, so it will be no strain on his budget, all he'll have to do is eat the food.

B-In the pantry right now we have in the way of canned goods: Beans, six different kinds. Fruit, three kinds. Pasta sauce. Tomato paste. Coconut milk. Canned veg for soup making. Plum tomatoes. Diced tomatoes.
Artichoke hearts. Black olives. Cranberries. Tuna. Canned chicken.
    No, we're not an 'open a can and heat it up' family, we do actually cook for ourselves. But cooking implies ingredients, and in our temperate climate much of the year there is not a lot in the way of ingredients growing out our back door. We have a freezer, but the space there is limited and they take electricity/cost money to run.   Plus if the power goes out for any length of time the food is ruined. (I don't mind this so much if it's mushrooms from the forest, I don't like them anyway and there will be more next year)
    Clearly we use more canned goods than he realizes. The canned items we do eat would be better used  if they were neatly organized and were used in order of purchase rather than our current situation which involves everything being shoved onto the shelves higgeldy piggledy and things occasionally going bad because they were lost somewhere in the back.

C-He could build more shelves, but he hasn't in the 25 years this house has been here. It seems unikely to rise to the top of his mile-long project list anytime soon. Were a big carton of shelf components to arrive at our door I could put it together myself, and then we would have it. This year, not in 2037 or beyond.

   So. Thinking about it.  Thinking about it. 
   The canned goods moving to a nice rotations shelf would free up the whole big green pantry cupboard for home-bottled fruits, gallon jars of pasta and such. (I put the pasta in jars or tins to foil the wiley country mice) And the pantry shelf height is more suited to quart, pint and half-gallon canning jars than to cans. With cans some of the shelves are a half inch to an inch short of the space needed to stack two cans, so there is a lot of wasted space. Of course if you double stack cans that multiplies the effort to get to things in the rear, so mostly you don't bother.

   What has got me interested in food storage?
    Well, my stalward Mormon upbringing for a start.  Being a people of isolated mountains and deserts the Mormons figured out long term food storage generations ago and have consistently taught its value to the membership. No, they don't believe obeying the principle of storing a year's supply of food will get you into heaven. Quite the opposite....in times of disaster and hardship a good larder of food may just keep you from knocking on heaven's doors ahead of schedule.
    When I was a child my parents had a good food storage system going. Nice shelves my daddy built in the kitchen, closets fitted out for cans and jars, and my bed frame was built to accomodate 50# bags of wheat beneath a deep girly frill of polished pink cotton.
    Our Catholic neighbors thought we were daft, as did my daddy's Protestant family members. They could see nothing but goofiness in following the counsel of church leaders who "taught hoarding".  Despite their opinions we went on daftly storing up food, a bit extra in the grocery cart week by week.
      Then one day the national truckers union went on strike. No trucks laden with groceries were leaving California or Georgia or Idaho. No food was speeding its way to the midwest. Within four hours of the strikes announcement the grocery store shelves were being cleared out. By morning there was nothing left in the stores but bubblegum and bug spray. No food. Not a can of soup, not an egg nor a loaf of bread.
    My mama shared  our food with the neighbors until the strike was over. Our little neighborhood caught the vision of preparedness.  Extra shelves began to pop up in the kitchens around us, and the weekly grocery ads were perused more carefully and the housewives planned out their purchases, "one for myself and one for the shelf".
     Years later I was a housewife myself, and I happily embarked on working out a food storage system of my own, working it out all over again each time we moved. On one occasion, when we lived in Warsaw, your good dad was Home Teaching a young man new to the town and the church and on a suspicion/inspiration he peeked into the young man's kitchen and found there was no food at all except half a can of sodapop.  The young man had just started a new job, and payday would not be for two weeks. We were a week away from payday ourselves and had no money, but we had food on all those fine shelves in the basement the Millers had built before they sold us the house.  Your dad came home and "shopped" in our food storage for enough food to tide the young man over till payday. It felt good. Food storage is meant to be for times of need, and not specifically OUR need either.

    When "the little girls" and I were in Loogootee at the height of single-mom and kids- too-young-for-jobs poverty we survived for several weeks one winter on food storage. I had a job, but the gas company had given an 80% rate increase, which we could not afford. Unable to use the furnace or cookstove we heated with a kerosene heater and cooked in a crockpot and electric skillet. The Methodist Church, where I worked as custodian, allowed me to borrow the kitchen there to bake our bread a couple of times a week. Between our 5 gallon buckets of wheat and our canned goods we got through the winter.  It would have been a much darker winter without our well-stocked pantry.

   The LDS idea of a year's supply of food of course stems from the time when America was primarily agrarian.  Growing your own food was what you did then, and when Autumn came and you harvested your crops you "put by" as much as possible to hold you over until the next year's harvest time.
    Because flood and drought and other natural disasters were not uncommon if you had enough land to grow more you would put by a supply of food to last two years, to allow for the possibility a year's crop failures. So when "The Brethren" began counseling families to be prepared with food, clothing and other needful things they weren't suggesting anything weird, or anything most people weren't already doing anyway.
    What was weird was that our culturen changed, people started moving to cities and not growing food. Our enormous highway system was built. Trucking food thousands of  miles across the country became the thing to do. The population became food-dependedt primarily on a small group of people we'd never met, running agribusinesses we could not comprehend, so far away from home we would never even see the plants our vegetables grew on or see who slaved in the sun to pick the food and pack it in crates for shipping.
    What was weird was generations of kids growing up thinking of strawberries and tomatoes as sturdy red nearly tasteless year-round even-in-winter foods instead of tender flavorful summer season foods.

     There is wisdom in being prepared to eat, as long as we plan to keep alive. 

      Having not given my attention to serious food storage since I  moved here four and a half years ago I am now calling my guilty self to repentance.  Winter is on the way, although with temperatures in then high 90's to low 100's it doesn't feel like it yet.  I am fixing to get us into a better position of preparedness before the cold winds blow. A years supply is too much for me to tackle at one go, and a years supply of say wheat and cooking oil but nothing else is not practical.  I'm aiming to get together a 3 month supply of basic foods first. When I've got that I'll aim at another gathering another three months worth. When I've got a six month supply of basics I'll begin to add in extra non basic items.

     What are your food storage/preparedness related memories?  What are your favorite foods to have on hand?  As always, any good advice is much appreciated too!




  1. Thoughts:

    1) So, do you think you'll buy shelves?

    2) I'm glad dad helped the young food-less guy. Good story.

    3)I would like to mention that The Youngest Child was in Ohio with your Lone Son during the winter without a furnace. She missed out on months of sponge baths and painfully cold hair washing sessions. But then, she also missed out on cozy evenings listening to the radio and knitting by the kerosene heater.

    4) I would like to have more food storage, but I've been moving every year for ten years now. It's hard to stockpile anything under those circumstances. Still, you can always tell when it's my turn to buy groceries--- I buy a LOT more than Ian.

  2. I am absolutely with you on the food storage thing. At the present time we mainly have just what we need in the pantry, but I think that's an excellent idea. I like the shelves in the photo, though they have the drawback of being very purpose-specific, and therefore not versatile, unlike regular shelves - which could become a sewing cupboard, say, if you all stopped eating food.
    Recently our beloved cats helpfully stocked our pantry with (live) mice. This resulted in a bulk-buy of plastic boxes that has in turn resulted in somewhat more orderly shelves.

  3. MC-I adore the shelves, but can't imagine where we'd put them unless we build a barn and move the bookbinding equipment out of the greatroom. Did you know Manimal build this place as a bookbinding studio, then ended up turning it into the house and building on a small studio space instead. At the moment we can't afford a barn, so i reckon I'll have to keep thinking....

    Ember-my first "lifestyle improvement" upon moving to this forest was to invest in plastic snap-lid boxes to stop these intrepid mice from ruining everything in my dresser drawers. Aside from them nesting in clothes I once found 2 cups of dog food stashed away in a big box of hand dyed woolen yarn,all carefully carried upstairs one piece at a time. Mice work hard to take care of their families. Consequently we must be cagey to try and stay a step ahead of them. Still, I think I'd miss them if they weren't here.


If you disagree with me try to keep it clean, or I'll wash your mouth out with homemade soap.