Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

What Happened to Home Pantry Building? March 26, 2012

Filed under: food preservation,home canning,pantry building — ourprairiehome @ 3:42 pm

When I was growing up, each summer was spent growing a garden. We had a rather large one that would produce enough vegetables to home can into quart jars enough food for winter. We would eat fresh vegetables from that garden, but the rest was jarred up. I remember canning many jars each year to fill the pantry shelves in our basement. Several boxes of home canned vegetables also were given to my Grandmother and to an Aunt who were unable to garden & can for themselves. Grandma had the space for a garden but was unable to do so. Aunt Sarah lived in a city and had no space for gardening. So, each season, several boxes of our canned up garden vegetables would be taken to them.

My parents had 7 acres on the property. The house sat on a 1 acre sized portion while the rest was a nice alfalfa pasture. We raised a small flock of ducks & chickens to provide eggs. In the lower half of the pasture, we kept a steer to raise for butchering. We didn’t have the steer ever year, but did when we needed the meat. Dad hunted deer in autumn. Us kids would pick the blackberries that grew in a large wild thicket along our pasture fence line. Across pasture, dividing it into 2 portions, was a small row of apple trees and a cherry tree. The fruit from these, as well as the pear tree in our back yard and the strawberry patch in our garden, would provide jams and fruit for the freezer & canning. Grandma had several large peach trees that we would can the fruit from also.

By season’s end, the pantry shelves in our home as well as Grandma’s would be filled with home canned foods for winter and into the next growing season. In our basement, one large freezer was filled with various meats, mostly beef, pork, and venison. The pork was a barter that we would do some years. A farmer would bale the alfalfa in the upper portion of our pasture for their animals and in exchange give us a side of pork when they butchered that fall. A second smaller freezer would be filled with various berries, fruits, and some of the vegetables that we didn’t jar up. It was our way of life. We grew nearly all of our own food and would store it away each season.

Sadly, today most families have no clue how to stock a their pantry from their own garden. Few families have more than a couple of kitchen cabinets and a small freezer for their pantry. It has become a lost way of life to most people. Often I hear people say that it is too much work or it takes too much time. Children today are not being taught how to cook very much beyond what can be heated up in a microwave.

In today’s economy with food and other goods rising in costs, there is a trend beginning in our country. Families are beginning to return to the days of growing their own gardens. Some garden only for fresh produce to use in summer months. Others are learning to freeze or home can the harvest for use in the winter. The sad part however is that now, instead of it being considered a frugal and wise practice, families who grow and store their own foods are being called “preppers” or are accused of hoarding food. Growing up, prepping was a way of life. We were preparing our pantries for winter or for hard times when illness or job loss may affect when family income. Back then, the food stamp program was extremely restrictive on what could be purchased with food vouchers. It wasn’t like today when food stamp recipients could buy nearly anything they want, excluding hot deli/prepared foods and alcoholic beverages. Being on food stamps was embarrassing. Today, people think nothing of it. There is an attitude of entitlement, not considering that they add to the financial burdens of our nation. Those families who choose to store away home grown, home canned foods for their families are looked upon as radicals by many.

Prepping has been given a bad name. People tend to think that anyone who stores food away in their pantries are radicals who are against the government. Have these folds never stopped to think that those who grow, store away, and take care of their own family’s food needs are actually helping the government by NOT being a food stamp recipient? Have they not considered that a family is simply trying to live within or below their financial means by cutting their food costs are simply being financially smart? Society in general has become so comfortable with the idea of families being in debt, using government assistance to supplement their incomes, as a common practice. If you are debt-free and living within your limited financial means without need of government assistance, you are considered odd and vilified.

It is a sad time when simply taking care of your own family’s needs and living debt-free is considered to be an oddity in society. It wasn’t that many years ago when this was simply a way of life that was expected. What is going to happen when government assistance breaks the government’s financial back? Look at what is happening in Europe? Do you really think that it can’t happen here? Families are so dependent on government entitlements that when Greece tried to cut back in order to prevent the country from going bankrupt, the people rioted. Everyone is generally in agreement that the government needs to limit the spending. Are you still saying that if the limits come in the form of loss of part of your government entitlements? If what happened in Greece should come to our nation’s shores, would YOU know how to get through the hard financial times? Can you grow a garden to feed your family? Are you knowledgeable in how to build up your pantry enough to at the very least get you by until the next harvest season? Just because you may not be able to garden doesn’t mean that you can’t freeze or home can produce from a farmer’s market or stock up on store bought non-perishable foods. There is no excuse.


Canning BBQ Beef March 16, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 5:40 pm

Had a brain storm that turned out to be a great idea. My dear husband drives truck and is gone from home quite a bit. I have been home canning foods for him in pint or half-pint jars, depending on what the food is. While at the grocery store, I bought a couple of pounds of very thin sliced roast beef from the deli. I am mixing this with BBQ sauce and then jarring it up for him. It is SO good! In a pint jar, he has enough to make a couple of very meaty sandwiches. A half-pint jar is enough for a topping over potatoes or rice.

I am now thinking of other deli meats and how I might be able to do the same with sliced turkey. Sliced ham would be good with a glaze-type sauce. Roasting up some boneless chicken breasts to shred up and can in BBQ sauce is another good option for the sandwiches. I am considering trying to do up some sweet & sour chicken or beef for him to have over rice also.

The ideas are flowing. Now to go through my recipes and see what can be jarred up and used for his meals away from home.


Musings March 7, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 7:33 pm

Sigh….. 49 years old. I remember when I was a kid and 49 seemed so old. I mean the “one foot in the grave” old. Now, I am facing it looming up upon me. Next month, I will be having my 49th birthday. Yeah, it will be an epic moment in time for me. I will be 1 year away from that half century mark. I don’t know if I am ready for that. LOL

I have quite enjoyed having my husband and I both being in our 40’s. Oh the vanity! This will be the last year of that. Then I will be officially that older woman with a husband who’s age is a totally different (and younger) decade. Yes, I married a man who is 6 years younger than myself. I have quite enjoyed that we have both been in our 40’s at the same time.

It is rather interesting to me. I know some people lament the passing years. I am finding that with the years comes a sense of peace. I know who I am and what I want to accomplish in my life. The goals that I may have had 20 years ago are silly now. I had a total respect for the old ways that my Grandmother had spoken of. Some of our neighbors when I was a child were horse & buggy Amish. I loved learning about their lifestyle and way of doing things. I was in awe of them and their ability to be so self-reliant. Being young, I had dreamed of living as they did, but wasn’t sure that I could give up the technology that I enjoyed. I look at my life now and am comfortable with the balance that we have found.

Like the Amish, we do most things using methods that have been done for decades/centuries before electricity became so commonplace. We do laundry by hand and dry it on the clothesline. I have a wood burning stove to cook meals on in cold months. My sewing machine is a treadle type. Our lighting is from oil lamps. Propane refrigeration and kitchen stove round out the appliances. Even some Amish use propane for refrigeration and stove.

We differ from the horse & buggy Amish in that I have the netbook computer and we drive a car. I have a cell phone. A year ago, we set up a small solar power system using 2 panels the size of cookie sheets to give us the ability to charge the cell phone. It has been a blessing to have that. My eldest daughter & her family are living with us due to a job loss. They also have cell phones and my youngest son has an I-pod that he uses daily. Those are charged on that same solar power system. Yes, it is a bit eclectic thinking but it works for us.

At this age, I now see so much wisdom in the way of life we have chosen. Bless his heart, my husband was willing to go along with this lifestyle when I suggested the benefits to it. We are getting so much more from it than we had originally planned on. Not only are we healthier, but there is a constant rhythm to it that is calming for our youngest. He has enough time around technology to be able to learn to adapt to the external stimuli. At home however, he is able to have a rest from it. With that, the autism stims and other behaviors have lessened. He is able to have a calm environment to learn and grow in. With the calm surroundings, he is able to better focus on his therapies and preschool activities.

Our youngest daughter is homeschooling and growing to love our life here. Once her homeschooling is done, she is outdoors most days. Nature study is a daily thing when you have so much of nature literally just outside your back door. Every day, she will find something new for us to look up and find information about. Trees, plants, flowers, insects, birds, and so much more.

Not having a TV, we have so much more time to spend together doing fun activities as a family. We play games at the kitchen table in the evening or on rainy days. We read to the children. We do crafts together. We go on walks. Some days, we go to the library and spend most of the day there reading, letting the children play games on their children’s computers, and checking out books to read at home. We go on outings. Spend an afternoon at the lake or going to a museum. Without the TV at home, we don’t become distracted by what is on the TV. We have more time to devote to our family and friends.

Yes, it is interesting looking at my life as I approach the end of the decade called your 40’s. I can say with all honesty that I love my life and the blessings that I enjoy each and every day.