Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It Pays To Can!

This is my most recent Farming Magazine artice, it will be in the Fall issue, enjoy!

Home Canning Saves Money
I was sharing our food philosophy recently when a man piped up and dogmatically stated that home canning is a nice hobby but “you’re never going to save money doing it!” He went on to say that he bought his canned goods by the case load from Save-A-Lot and $.40 a can was cheaper than any home canned goods could ever be (needless to say, he isn’t a Farming magazine reader :-)). So, does home canning really save money? Let’s look at the facts. A typical 600 square foot garden will yield, on average, one pound of vegetables per square foot. Seeds, plants, fertilizer and tools cost approximately $60 amortized over 5 years, using these figures brings the cost of raising vegetables to 10¢ per pound. Obviously if you buy direct from growers or at pick-your-own farms the price is somewhat higher. Canning jars purchased new cost about $8 per dozen, amortized over 20 years brings their cost to 3¢ per jar per year, add the cost of lids (which shouldn’t be reused) and the cost for jar, band and lid is 20¢. Figuring 2 pounds of vegetable in each quart jar brings the grand total to 40¢ per jar, so indeed, canning does “pay”.
Home Canning Assures Quality
Home preservation of food also assures that my family is eating the quality of food that is important to me. Pork raised in China, fed on human waste, at bargain basement prices from my local mega-mart food chain might seem like a thrifty purchase until you factor in the real cost. Some people don’t mind, but I do. Likewise, we raise or buy locally our own vegetables; what goes into my canning jars is naturally grown, non GMO wholesomeness. It hasn’t gobbled up fossil fuels by flying 2000 miles across the country before hitting my plate, in all probability it was picked only hours before we ate it or put it into jars to enjoy this Winter.
What About The Value Of My Time?
Farm wives of a generation or 2 ago didn’t view home canning as a separate, optional activity apart from their regular duties. It was taken for granted that if you wanted to eat in the winter then you worked to preserve the harvest in the summer. The old farm families never accounted for their time or what it was worth. Only today, the modern woman, city dwellers or those new to the homesteading way of life do that. It’s part of the city mentality (and Marxist “labor theory of value”) that they cannot get past the fact that their time is worth money. Back to the 40¢ canned vegetables that my friend buys, why doesn’t he factor in the time he spends in the car and the store plus the gas money he spent to get there? The true cost of the 40¢ can is the number we should really be using for an honest comparison. From all angles home preservation is the healthiest, most economical, environmentally friendly way you can feed your family!
The 13 jars of strawberry jam that we canned yesterday. I do all of my jam in bail lid jars, I only wish I had more! I have never, ever had a seal failure with bail lids, but I've certainly had plenty with regular lids. The lids today are made so cheaply (like everything else) compared to lids 20 years ago and I think that's why they fail so often. I want to try these lids.
I am canning lemonade concentrate today, it's on sale locally and will be a nice treat this winter.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chapter 10: In which I discuss the merits of tobacco

Among the many new things that we try every year, this year we are growing tobacco. Aleks has wanted to try to grow it for quite a while and this year he is giving it a go. He selected Orinoco tobacco, a variety that has been grown in this country since the 1600's when John Rolfe obtained the coveted seeds. Rolfe shunned the harsh product grown by the local Indians, Nicotiana Rustica. It would never sell in London. Somehow he obtained seeds from the coveted Nicotiana Tabacum strain then being grown in Trinidad and South America--though Spain had declared a penalty of death to anyone selling such seeds to a non-Spaniard. Jamestown was wildly successful in their tobacco venture, in part due to the better Spanish strain and in part due to improved cultivation methods. When in 1614 the first tobacco arrived in London, it was in almost immediate demand. Though King James I despised the crop, he knew that the colony depended on it for survival and the import duty on tobacco meant that the English treasury grew with every shipload sold. Tobacco cultivation soared in Jamestown (they were even growing it in the streets!), so much so that the colonists had to be forced to devote a percentage of ground to grow food crops. By 1639 the colonies had exported 750 tons of tobacco to England, thus ensuring the once doubtful survival of this fledgling colony.
Now, why would we want to grow such a horrible, cancer causing substance? Tobacco is used as an insect repellant in the garden and it's also used to worm animals. The remarkable stimulant properties of tobacco were utilised by early American Indians in curing wounds, swellings, coughs, tooth-ache, rheumatism, and stomach disorders. Tobacco was administered to patients in several forms, and was used in emergency treatment for snake and insect bites. We believe, as with most things, that proper use of an herb can be beneficial, but abuse, of almost everything, is detrimental. Tobacco can be tricky to grow though, so this year might not be a success but if not then we'll try again next year!
Lastly, this is Asa's 8 month portrait. I debated about posting a picture of his little naked heiney but I couldn't resist!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Of vintage canners, planting by moon, and 1940's rationing

I wanted to blog about everything that doesn't have to do with Katie's birthday today, mostly farm and kitchen related happenings. I needed a second pressure canner, so many things take 90 minutes to process plus the heat up and cool down times that 7 jars can take a few hours all told. New pressure canners cost a bit more than I'm willing to pay for such a thin walled contraption (they say it's to make them heat up and cool down faster than the old style but I don't believe it, it's all about cheap, shoddy goods) so I kept watch for a nice used one and I found this beauty!

I think it dates to the 1930's, it has wooden handles instead of the usual Bakelite. I really think it's cute, or as cute as a pressure canner can reasonably be anyway. :-)

We planted the crops that bear above ground last Wednesday and Thursday, the ground was dry and we didn't water them at all and!!! the plants are up, way up, yesterday morning! That is so amazing! I have never, in all my years of gardening seen seeds do this. Planting by the Moon was one of the smartest gardening moves we've ever made. Above is one of the hills of corn with a bean also up (they use the corn stalks to trellis themselves).

On my way back from taking the garden picture I snapped this picture below. I didn't "artistically arrange" the snaths or the yoke. They rest at the corner of the porch and the yoke does its duty daily in the hauling of water to the pigs, chickens, turkeys and cow. The yoke is surprisingly comfortable, light weight yet strong. Aleks used it this Spring in hauling sap, that was its original purpose but now it assists in water hauling. Following the old ways brings such a sense of "rightness" about it, there's something about doing the same things in the same way that people have been doing for hundreds of years that meets a need that humans have to feel connected to the natural world. There's a peace in it that isn't readily found in our plastic, throw away world.

I dispatched Levi to go take a picture of the Buff Orpington hen with her Chocolate turkey baby, as you can see by the ruffled neck feathers the hen was irritated at the intrusion. She was so anxious to go broody that Aleks gave her a turkey egg and she struts around proudly with her surrogate baby. :-)

Doesn't it look like a little bandit? Chocolate turkeys are very rare, one of the rarest heritage breeds that there are.

And lastly, have you read about the gal who decided to lose weight following 1940's recipes using rationed food proportions? Her goal is to lose 100 pounds and she's well on her way. I thought it was an interesting idea and certainly a worthwhile goal. She lists an authentic recipe for every pound she loses, I think there are 30 some on there now.

17 years ago on this day......

17 years ago on this day I became the Mother of my first daughter. I really, really wanted 3 things: a little girl, born in May and with a lot of hair. We got our little girl on May 31, named her Katherina Norriel and she had more hair than any other baby that I have ever had. :-) The 17 years have *flown* by and she's no longer little, she has in fact grown into a lovely young woman.

She is now the confident, competent default manager of our home when I'm not here, a good cook and wonderful baker, laundry washing, nose wiping, diaper changing beloved big sister to her 7 younger siblings. She is a lover of Country and Bluegrass music, enjoys Hank Williams and Josh Turner, horses, gardening, canning, writing, photography and stealing all my clothes so that I don't have anything to wear. :-)

Raising children can be a worrisome thing, at least for me as I am a natural worrier. It is a relief to see your children turn out well, not perfect, but striving to walk in the light that they've been given. I am a thankful Mother to be able to see the day when my children love and thank me for the way they were raised, it is a sweet, sweet reward!

I love you Katie!!!