Tuesday, December 16, 2014

food/preservation-lessons learned

As homesteaders, our food supply and ways to preserve our food are very important to us. It is, in many ways, what makes us homesteading and self sustaining(ish) people. We only purchased what we could not grow, hunt or forage  around us. The only things we really purchased were oils, sugar, coffee, tea and  some cooking/baking spices.  Even these items were purchased in bulk quantities and stored  until we needed them. We are not preppers and did not have an end of the world stash hanging around, but we like to be prepared and had a couple years of food and other essentials put back in the event of injury or some other emergency. These items/supplies are what  hurts us and bothers us the most in regard to the fire. The house was just a shack, but the food, and supplies associated with our food, are much of what identifies us as homesteaders, and now that is gone.

Below are some of the things we have thought about, learned or are relearning in regard to  food/supplies.The biggest lesson in all this is: Dont become complacent and lazy! Much of  the important (to us) stuff that was lost could have been prevented had we not become that way.

Stored seeds were all kept in boxes and containers and they burnt up. This was not just a seed supply for the  next year, this was seed supply that we traded, bartered, and gave away. The seed supply   could have provided seed for years to come.  Some of them were crops we had been working on for several years to adapt to our growing conditions and will take years to reattain.  This will never happen again as they will have their very own fire safe for storage.  In the event something catastrophic happens again, we can just scoop them up with the important-junk fire safe and take them with us.

 All our canned foods ( about 500 jars were kept on shelves in the living room area of the shack.  All of our jars  (another 600 or so), canners (3),  rings, lids (2-3000),  and so on were in a closet and stored away.  All our veggies were also in the living room as it was a cool and dry area to store them (70 pounds sweet taters,  200 pounds of squashes, 30 pounds taters, 15 pounds onions, garlic,  wheat, corn etc). We also had  all our herbal  medicines stored there  and our grain grinder,  dehydrator and other preservation equipment. There was no good reason for any of this We have a perfectly good root cellar we built several years ago. It, however, was down the hill in the  holler and it was inconvenient to walk our happy asses down there and store or fetch food. This will never happen again as foods will be stored in several places. Not only will food be in the root cellar but canned goods and canning supplies will be stored away from living areas and in more than one location. What was the cistern is going to be converted into a storage area where our supplies for preservation will be stored, as well as most of the canned foods.  Things will never be stored in one location again. 

A freezer allows too much comfort. Instead of canning or drying foods, we opted to freeze a lot of it. We always thought about a long term power outage and we had decided  we could have a long canning session or two and take care of the problem. Burning it to a crisp never really crossed our minds. When we burned, the absolutely-full freezer also burned along with anything in it. Had it been canned and in a dry storage area, we would still have all of it to fall back on.

Herbal remedies were also made and stored in bulk. Boy, we could sure have used some passion flower tincture those first couple weeks. I now will be investing in small bottles and having them in a ready to go container. Bulk bottles will be stored out of the house and in a safe place. Other first aid supplies will be the same way. They will be stored in no less than two locations.

Knives, guns and other butchering/hunting items will also be split up and stored in separate locations. Though we were able to grab the guns, every knife we owned was burned up. These too will have a secondary and possible tertiary storage location. 

Having all these items in  two or more places would have allowed us to save at the very least a portion of our self sufficiency and  pride.  We still would not have been able to save it all but it would  have given us a greater level of comfort  knowing we still had it to fall back on. Instead, on top of everything else that was lost, we find ourselves needing to replace every stitch of it within a matter of a few months. Gardening season here in the south  is pretty much a year round effort only tapering off in the months of November and December. The new planting season begins in January and by March the preservation processes begin again.


  1. Years ago, we made a few "go" bags. Thinking this through, and being sure to go through, review, and update each year --- with the then current important choices --- isn't necessarily a bad idea. Also, looking at your ideas here, having multiple "go" bags for various imagined scenarios could be smart --- flooding, fire, power out, home invasion, chaos, or even TEOTWAWKI.

  2. How awful! wishing you the best in recreating your homestead and all the systems that maintain it.