From The Backyard… Nature’s Bounty

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“Food security is not in the supermarket. It’s not in the government. It’s not at the emergency services division. True food security is the historical normalcy of packing it in during the abundant times, building that in-house larder, and resting easy knowing that our little ones are not dependent on next week’s farmers’ market or the electronic cashiers at the supermarket.”   – Joel Salatin, from his book Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World

When Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia came to Woodstock a few years ago, he bragged about how his family never had to go to the grocery store because of all the food they preserve from each year’s garden. He said they “shopped” off the shelves in their own basement and enjoyed the confidence of knowing how that food was grown and processed. He challenged us to take responsibility for our own sustenance.

My gardening partners and I have taken this challenge to heart. Our 20 X 40 foot garden produces enough each year to supplement three households with an ever-changing variety of veggies. And Wendy, Lindsay, and I are learning to “put food by” as it was once called. In our own kitchens, we’ve each experimented with salting and fermenting, pickling, canning, and freezing the harvest— every season learning more about what works and what flops. None of us gleans enough to feed our families and survive exclusively from our little plot, but we are striving towards some small measure of self-sufficiency. It’s hard work. And it’s fun, especially when doing it together.

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Now that the snow is finally receding—I’m fascinated to watch it evaporate into fuzzy fog—it’s almost time to buy seeds and start seedlings for the coming season. Based on what we all love to eat and preserve, we go for crops that froth with abundance: tomatoes and peppers, kale/chard/lettuces/greens of all kinds, basil and chives and any other herb we like, peas and potatoes, cucumbers, kohlrabi and squashes. Our root vegetables have not been a great success, owing to the condition of the soil, which requires literally tons of amendments. We keep trying. But the green beans always come in at bumper crop volume, so much so that my freezer and storage shelves are still full from the last two harvests.

This presents a fortunate problem: deciding how many bean tee-pees we should plant this spring. I mean, how many ways can we eat green beans? Shouldn’t we consume last year’s beans before we plant new ones? Or plant fewer this year? What did Thoreau do with his excess?
Wanting to put a dent in my freezer space before planting time, I recently grabbed a bag of blanched and cut green beans, dumped them onto a cookie sheet, dowsed them with olive oil and salt, and voila—oven-roasted green bean jerky! At this point I’ll try anything.

About Ann Hutton

Freelance writer Ann Hutton lives in upstate New York’s lush Hudson Valley. Her work has appeared in the Catskill Mountain Region Guide, Hudson Valley Magazine, Kaatskill Life Magazine, Green Door Magazine, Upstate House and Chronogram, and in Ulster Publishing’s community weeklies: Woodstock Times, Saugerties Times, Kingston Times, and New Paltz Times. A graduate of Union Institute and University at Vermont College, Ann is currently writing a motorcycle memoir with the working title Sitting in Motion: One Woman’s Midlife Adventure on Two Wheels.

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