Homesteading.....Its All About the Food
When it comes right down to it - homesteading, farm life, being more self reliant- it all boils down to one thing and that's the food. I mean think about it. We establish a homestead (wherever that may be) and then we proceed to grow a garden(vegetables), raise chickens (eggs), get a few cows or pigs (beef & pork)), maybe some honeybees (honey), a milk cow (milk and cheese), start canning your food (preserving), and all this is centered around the food! All the work done everyday is towards to end goal of growing and sustaining your own food sources. Every homesteader I know wants to stock their pantry, larder, freezer, and root cellar with ALL THE THINGS that they have grown and harvested throughout the year. That has been our family's goal for the past few years and every year we get a little better at it. I get envious and swoon a little when I see other people's pantries with all the home canned goods, braids of onions and garlic, bins of potatoes, jars of ferments, homemade cheeses, and dried herbs and spices.
In a time when everything seems to be out of our control this is the thing that makes me feel better about my little part of the world. I can go into my pantry, freezer, refrigerator, or garden and "grocery shop" what I need to make almost any dish you could imagine. I like to keep a large variety of items on hand so that I can create almost any dish I would like. Want pork tacos? You got it! Want beef stew? You got it! Want chocolate chip cookies, brownies, cake? Got that too! French fries, meatloaf, green beans......... you get the idea. We grow and raise what we are able to and then keep bulk amounts of basic pantry staples on hand that we buy from the grocery store, warehouse stores, and through food co-ops. I still go the the grocery store to buy things like milk, cream, cheese, some snacks (kettle potato chips are my guilty indulgence), and produce that I just can't grown myself (bananas and avocados). The trick to it all is learning to cook with basic ingredients rather than buying something premade and boxed for you on the shelf. Its also important to eat with the seasons - you don't grow strawberries and tomatoes in December where I live so I don't buy them because the ones that I can get are shipped from half way around the world and don't taste that great anyway. So I eat tomatoes and strawberries in the summer straight off the vines when they taste best and save the winter for carrots and potatoes and the like.
You will see very few commercially processed items in our pantry because I try to make most things from scratch. I love taking the time to learn new cooking techniques and just improving upon my basic kitchen skills. Learning to make some really simple basic recipes that you can build upon is the best way to go. For example, learning how to make a real great pie crust and then using it to make dishes like chicken pot pie, apple pie, turnovers, empanadas, and quiche. Learning to make a basic soup base with celery, onion, and carrots and then building upon that to create chicken noodle, vegetable beef, and other amazing soups to fill your belly over the fall and winter. Soup is the unsung hero of the winter kitchen - I am able to pack so many vegetables, flavors and good ingredients into a soup that I can't wait for soup season to roll around every year. It's easy and you can let it simmer all day while you are working on other things and make it last for several meals and leftovers. Another great simple basic is a whole roasted chicken. You can change this up with different spices and herbs and sides. You can also use the chicken that's left over in additional recipes like chicken salad, soups, bbq sandwiches, and tacos. One of our favorite basics in the kitchen are eggs, they are so versatile and we always have plenty "laying" around. So we use them for basics like scrambled eggs and deviled eggs and making mayo, but then elevate the simple egg into something special by turning into a frittata or quiche. One last basic kitchen essential recipe to have in your skill set is a pizza crust - I don't think I need to elaborate any more on that! If you love pizza then you will love making your own even better and of course you can turn that into any kind of pizza you like and the sky is the limit. There are so many ways to make food nourish your body and soul!
I spend most of my days thinking of food mainly, but not just in the eating it sense, but more in the planning sense like, what am I making for breakfast, lunch and dinner, what am I growing now, what am I growing next season, do I have enough seeds, what's eating my garden, how am I storing this harvest, do I have enough canning jars, do I have enough freezer space, do we have enough meat in the freezer, do we need to purchase any animals for the upcoming year, when do we need to breed animals, when do we need to butcher animals, and the list goes on and on. Tending to all these things related to food probably seems like an unecessary chore to most people, but to me and my family it really brings sense of pride to know that we have been able to build a system of growing our food. There is just something about putting your own hands to the work that makes you fill with pride. I mean yeah, its just a tomato plant, but its the plant that you carefully selected the seeds for, lovingly placed the seed in some soil to get it started months before it would go outside, watered the seedling and gave it light, planted it, pruned it, watered it, kept bugs of it, and finally after months of work and patience you picked your first ripe tomato and it felt so so good. Somewhere along the way the work of growing that little tomato changed you somehow and now you want to grow another tomato, and another and then 50 and 100, you get the idea! Once you start succeeding at it you want to do it again and expand and get better! It builds such confidence to know that you can grow things and tend to them and over time they will yield spectacular results.
With all this being said I think you see why the homestead and the homesteader is really ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. You can create and nurture it into existence and connect with nature and your food in ways you never could before. And the more you do it the better it gets, and the better your environment gets, and the better your ecosystem gets. Lets make the world a better place! I encourage everyone to do a little something to bring out the homesteader in you!