"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Freezer Inventory and Seasonal Living

Yesterday my sister and I went to pick up our side of beef. We bought one together from my neighbor across the street and split it between us, just as we did last year. Last year's quarter lasted my family just about exactly a year and it was the best beef I think I've ever tasted. Grass fed right up until the knacker-man's van arrives in the field. About as local as it gets, too, seeing as how I can see the cows grazing from my kitchen window. Didn't somebody say "eat your view?" Well, I took it heart.

The chest freezer is getting pretty full, as it should be this time of year. When I put the beef in, I took an inventory and here it is:

1/4 steer, divided into steaks, roasts, ribs, and hamburger
1/2 pig (more or less), including ham, bacon and sausage
4 gallons apple cider, frozen
12 gallon zip0lcs of blueberries
14 quart ziplocs raspberries
6 gallon ziplocs of kale
and a couple of things I am pretty sure we will never eat: one frozen pork liver from the first pig, and a giant bag of pork-fat scraps which I intended to render into lard.
The freezer is now about three-fourths full. We better start eating some beef and kale if we want to fit a couple of goats in there too! I would have liked to get more vegetables in - last year I did frozen corn and peas too. But on the other hand, the corn didn't actually freeze very well. Defrosted, it was only good for soup or to put in baked goods, it was just too mushy to eat straight. The peas were delicious, though.

Stocking the freezer for winter had me thinking about seasons on the farm. I used to think that I lived in accordance with the seasons, for a city girl, anyway. I knew when the expect the autumn rains and get out the sweaters from the chest in the closet. I always made note of the first T-shirt day of spring, and I always picked blackberries in season and tried to shop seasonally at farmer's markets. But that is a far cry from the way I live seasonally now. On the farm, each season has it's own work, and there aren't just four seasons (spring, summer, fall and winter) but more like a dozen.

For example, cheese season is ending soon. The goats are on the downslope of their lactation curve, and I quit milking much after the weather turns nasty, so I must make cheese while the sun shines, so to speak. Cheese season is about three months long, say June to September.

As cheese season wanes, apple season is just picking up. That means cider, applesauce, pies, and dehydrating. Of course it's also pear season and squash season. Maybe I should just call it "late harvest preserving season." Early harvest preserving season -May to August- is snap peas, garden peas, beans, cucumbers, greens... mostly for me it's a lot of pickling. Pickle season. Tomatoes straddle the early and late preserving seasons.

As do berries, but around here they deserve their own season. Berry season is long; it starts with strawberries in June (oh my aching back, I hate picking strawberries) and doesn't end until the last blackberries (ouch, ouch ouch) have gone with the coming of the autumn rains. Soon, soon. Raspberries in July. Blueberries in August and September are my favorite. Picking blueberries is delightful, unless it's too hot.

After all the berries are gone there is the brief and lovely mushroom season, which I experience vicariously because I don't hunt mushrooms but which I anticipate every year with my mouth watering. Oh chantrelles!

Butchering season. Sausage making season. Smoking season (I will smoke this year, I will!).

Mud season. Frozen mud season. Frozen hose season. Mitten season. Trudge-season. Toting buckets season. Cold toes season. Dark season. Long, long, long dark.

Planning season. Thinking about spring season. Seed catalogue season.

Mud season again.

Roto-tilling season. Seedlings-in-the-sunroom season. Sprout season.

Radish season! Micro-greens season! Spinach season! Salad season! Joy! Joy!

This upcoming year I've decided on an all-container garden. The weeds have kicked my ass three years in a row. I call that a KO. I give up. I've been scavenging containers. I got two bathtubs off craigslist, cheap, and I plan to plant potatoes in them. Here's what I'll do: as early as possible in the spring, I'll lay potatoes in the shallow layer of dirt on the bottom, and plant spinach and radishes on top of that layer. By the time I'm harvesting radishes and baby spinach, the potatoes will be up and ready for a new layer of dirt. Two harvests out of each bathtub!

Also, tires. You can see two tires in front of the tubs. I have cut off the upper rim of each so as to make a larger planter. It's hella hard work with a handsaw. I've got seven tires to go. Also I have a half barrel which will also be a two-harvest potato planter. And I'm going to use milk crates lined with cardboard on the sides but not the bottom. Each will be about one square foot of dirt and therefore I can follow the square foot gardening guide.

Oh sure, I'm so organized NOW.


AnyEdge said...

Good God! I mean, I know you throw away (or let someone else use) a lot of cow/pig/goat when you cut it up into chunks and freeze it; but how big is your freezer?!

~Tonia said...

Chop up that liver and feed it to the chickens! They would absolutely love it. We are missing the pork we usually have!! Things are running a little low trying to get things going at the new place.. You have a good stock going!!

Aimee said...

bro, it's the same size as a fridge, just on it's side. It's vast.
And Tonia, what a great idea. Now I can dispose of the scary liver without guilt.

TheMartianChick said...

Hi,Aimee! Whew... I finally got through all of your summer posts. You have been quite busy and you must feel so good about what you've accomplished...especially the cheese!

I did quite a few containers this year, but it was mostly for herbs since I didn't want them to take over my (very small) property. I also grew my potatoes in a pile of straw. They are the cleanest potatoes I've ever seen and required NO weeding.I did have to put out a couple of dishes of beer to kill off the slugs. I think they were attracted by the straw.

And yeah, feed the liver to the chickens. It's too ugly to be taking up space in the freezer! Blecchhh!

Aimee said...

Thanks so much chick! I admire what you are doing and wish you the best. But you gotta bite the bullet and eat some of those quail! So delicious!