The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Late August harvest update

harvest bounty in the form of a 2/3rds full freezer

20 gallons of vegetables + a misc amount of chickens and fruit = 2/3 of the way to our goal of having enough garden goodies to get us through this upcoming winter season.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Hey, Anna! I was wondering, how do you know much to store up per person? Is there a general guideline or is it a matter of paying attention to how much you're normal eating and try to hit that goal mark for x amount of weeks, etc. Do you plan for october to march, or do you plan for longer because you don't really start harvesting much until later and so on? Maybe you have a post already written about this and I haven't found it.
Comment by Brandy Fri Aug 26 18:45:10 2011

That's an excellent question, but the answer has to be very person-specific. Start out by taking a look at the volume of vegetables your family eats per day. I figure that in the winter, the two of us go through at least a quart a day of fresh or frozen produce, in addition to the vegetables we store on the shelf (winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, etc.)

Then consider the length of your growing season --- we have fresh food from around March/April through December, but we can only feed ourselves all the vegetables we need fresh from garden from about May to October. So that's six months I don't need to worry about, roughly three months we need to feed ourselves somewhat from the freezer, and three full freezer months. If you count the shoulder months as half months, that gives us 4.5 freezer months, which equates to:

4.5 freezer months X 30 days/month X 0.25 qt/day = 33.75 gallons.

That will get you started, but I highly recommend keeping notes on what you store and eat. That will help you tweak your stored goods so that you don't end up in March with a whole lot of vegetables you're sick of and none of your favorites. And then you can use that data to change how much you plant of each vegetable next year!

Comment by anna Sat Aug 27 13:35:21 2011

I really enjoyed this post, it was good to see. Ive been trying to put up as much as we can on our little 'urban homesteading' type of food production. My problem is the wife isnt always a big fan of what we can grow successful in our area...other than Salsa making ingredients as she goes through at least 3-4 gallons of homemade salsa every six months it seems!

Whatever we dont grow ourselves or cant grow enough of, we try to get at our local farmers market or through family friends (peaches, sweet corn, berries, green beans, melons, and more). Other thing ive stared to do is speaking to farms about taking their 'seconds' off their hands as much as I can get. This has been great for peaches as I plan to cut up and freeze them anyways so I dont normally care if i have to cut out a soft spot or its not the prettiest peach available. Other area has been pumpkins after halloween. Yes i know they arent the best for eating, but our local pumpkin patch lets me take as many as I want starting the day after halloween. While most are used for pumpkin seeds as a snack, a few have made it into my freezer for soups/stews.

My question is how do you keep track of everything you have in stock, so you dont forget/loss a few things and find them after they are past their prime? Every so often we have this problem with venison, especially specialty cuts I'll make up (fajita/stir fry, kabobs, roasts...) and I wanted to see how you two do it.


Comment by David Z Mon Aug 29 11:54:44 2011

I really love your methods of "foraging" for free, good food!

To answer your question --- it's pretty easy to keep track of our vegetables because we go through an annual cycle. I fill the freezer all summer, eat out of it all winter, then once produce starts flowing in fast again early the next summer, I thaw out anything leftover and give it to the chickens. The note-keeping I mention in the post linked to in a previous comment also helps there.

Meat is a bit more tricky, but for us it's pretty seasonal too. We haven't yet gotten to the point where we raise enough chickens that we haven't run out by the time we kill next year's birds, and the lamb we bought in the spring is long gone. Once we get better about hunting, hopefully venison will be the same.

So, I guess my short answer is --- pay attention to your seasonal cycles. When you're thinking about pulling out your gun to go hunting, that's the time to eat up all of those specialty cuts!

Comment by anna Mon Aug 29 15:00:24 2011

Have you considered vacuum sealing your frozen food storage or have you not encountered freezer burn or anything like that when using the plastic storage containers I see in the picture?

Sarah in Boulder Creek, CA

Comment by Sarah Thu Sep 1 13:17:07 2011

We don't have any problem with freezer burn because we eat up our vegetables within a year. (Well, we really eat then within a shorter time period than that since I tend to make sure the freezer is empty around May or June and many things don't go in until September or October.) We also pack the food as close to the top as possible and pack them straight from blanching, which means they're slightly damp. Less air and more water in the container means less chance of freezer burn.

Vacuum sealing can give good results, but I don't like the disposable issue. We reuse our containers several times before they give out, which feels more sustainable.

Comment by anna Thu Sep 1 16:06:09 2011

Good to know! It might not work as well with moist contents, but I actually do reuse our vacuum sealer bags for dry goods, and I think you could probably use them with veggies/fruit if you just wiped the bags out with a cotton rag or rinsed and let them air dry (but probably not with meat). Maybe more trouble than it's worth; I guess I kinda love using my vacuum sealer. ;)

Sarah in Boulder Creek, CA

Comment by Sarah Thu Sep 1 18:44:16 2011

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