Them That’s Doin’: Canning Food, New Trees and Preparing for Winter

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PHOTO: FOTOLIA/DRAGON_FANG
 Preparations canning fruits and vegetables for the upcoming winter, and a bread recipe using midwestern, soft-type wheat.

A Missouri cold spell has reminded us that winter is close,
and most of that stuff we had to get done “before winter”
is not done! The water pump is not enclosed in insulation,
the goat shed and the chicken room have not had their
drafts checked, the new garden spot for next spring has not
been tilled, and the 5 acre pasture did not get seeded to
alfalfa. We DID get the outhouse moved (something we had
been putting off, for obvious reasons) to a new location.

The outhouse-moving was a fantastic scene. We had no heavy
chain, so we used swing chains . . . and they broke every
few feet. Besides that, the old tractor has a bad clutch
and Keith had to sit with the pedal pushed in for five or
ten minutes every time before he could put it in gear. Try
to straighten up an outhouse under those conditions, over a
hole you’ve dug in the ground . . . then write and tell us
how you did it.

We had a long drought in the Midwest this summer and,
although our garden was better than most around here, our
visions of vegetable bounty didn’t materialize. We had
plenty to feed us and some to give away, but not a lot to
put up for winter, and none to sell. I think only
experience can dictate how much to plant and how much to
can and freeze. I’ve seen several charts on the subject . .
. all different. Anyway, most families eat different
amounts of different things, so who can tell?

I was pretty proud of my 40 jars of tomatoes and 20 of
tomato juice, but I’m afraid it’s just a drop in the bucket
compared to my friend (the organic farmer’s wife) who did
196 jars of tomatoes, juice and ketchup. Well, she was
raised on a farm and has been canning her own for four
years, so I’m trying not to feel too badly about it. I also
did a WHOPPING 14 pints of peaches. And, are you ready? 15
pints of green beans! I plan to can some pears off our one
and only productive fruit tree. And next year . . .

We’re still gardening and have turnips, beets, lettuce,
spinach, radishes, mustard and winter onions to eat with
the green beans and corn we’re still harvesting. We’ve
really had to compete with critters for that sweet corn!
Grasshoppers ate off the silks, causing some ears not to
develop kernels; corn worms ate the ends of the ears; and
racoons chomped away on the fattest and best of the
remainder. No corn to freeze. I want to get started on a
cold frame next week. I hope to have fresh lettuce and
spinach for a long time.

We’re planning a HUGE garden next year. We want to do much
better at putting away food, and we want enough to sell.
We’ve found the patients of an allergy doctor to be a good
market for organic produce. Most of them have to have pure
food and are used to paying air freight prices for produce
from California. They are desperate for nutritious,
non-poisoned food and will pay a reasonable price for it.

Early Christmas presents from Keith’s parents are 10 fruit
and nut trees and 150 feet of honeysuckle hedge. We’re
trying to decide where to put them so we can get the soil
prepared before October, when they’ll probably be shipped.
The old orchard site is definitely not the spot since it is
full of soggy, low places.

Besides the ordered fruit trees, we are saving pits and
seeds to plant in the garden next spring so we can
experiment with grafting. I hope we will find enough fruit
tree owners willing to donate buds!

We wanted the hedge because we are right on a black-top
road and–as the local people go by–they like to
slow down and get a good long look at us! We really don’t
look freaky or anything. Just busy and happy.

There is a pretty good chapter on orchards in Kains’
Five Acres and Independence. Also the September
issue of Organic Gardening Magazine had a good orchard
article.

Our greatest personal disaster of 1970 was Ann starting
first grade. The school bus picks her up at 6:55 a.m. and she is
home at 4:30 p.m. What a long day for a nearly seven year old.
Perfect training for a lifetime of despised work. Making
her go every morning is one of the hardest things I’ve ever
done. I wish I knew what to do about it.

We finally butchered and ate one chicken. He looked like a
big fat rooster, but he was bluffing . . . he was skinny.
We lived through the cleaning and plucking, but I didn’t
eat much. We’re going to wait until they’re bigger and
easier to dress before we kill any more.

I hope there will be a natural food store opening in Kansas
City soon. Honey, cold-pressed oil, and rice are our most
expensive staples. I’d like to be able to get them for
less-than-health food prices. Maybe even barter with
produce.

We, buy our stone-ground whole wheat flour from the organic
farming couple we know. He, just 31, has been on his farm
for 10 years. What luck to meet them! Alice taught me to
bake no-knead bread which is delicious and so easy that I
make all our bread now. Here’s the recipe for anyone who
has access to midwestern, soft-type wheat:

Alice Okorn’s No Knead Bread

Mix together 5 cups warm water, 4 tsp. salt and 3/4 cup
honey.

Sprinkle 3 Tbs. El Molino bread yeast (or 4 Tbs. of
Fleischmanns or Red Star) on the water-honey mixture and
let it pop to the surface. Stir. Then add:

3/4 cup oil and 8 cups stone-ground whole wheat flour. Mix
together with a big spoon then beat until smooth with
electric mixer. By the way, do not sift the flour in this
recipe; spoon it lightly into measuring cup.

Mix in 6 more cups flour, then . . .

Mix in 2 more cups flour. At this point you may need more
or less flour. The dough should be sticky, but manageable.
Cover the bowl with towel. Let rise until double in bulk.

Punch down and stir VIGOROUSLY, Divide the dough into four
BUTTERED loaf pans (Pyrex works best). With buttered hands,
shape each into a smooth loaf. Let rise until double in
bulk. DON’T jar or bump.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
Remove from pans as soon as bread pulls away from sides.

I don’t know how this recipe would work with Deaf Smith
County, Texas flour. I’ve never tried it but I have a
feeling it might be too hard to soften and develop gluten
without kneading.

Once in a while I miss slamming bread dough around . . . so
I knead some biscuit dough! It will be a year or two
before we get “together” enough to plan our own wheat crop.
The vegetable gardens and orchard come first. Then alfalfa
and grain for our animals. Then maybe wheat . . . or
perhaps we’ll work out a barter system with our other
homesteading and farming friends so that we don’t have to
be so diversified. There are more and more of us all the
time.