Growing and Storing Your Own Food, by F.E.S.
Let me begin by saying I am a 64 year old male who grew up in the era of duck and cover. Every school child back then was aware of the threat of falling A bombs form the sky with the Russian hammer and sickle painted on their nose. Many people were prepared for a nuclear exchange with fall out rates and blast distance from ground zero calculated. Food reserves were stocked in the pantry or in a shelter and each family member knew exactly what to do in an emergency. To be prepared then was your civic duty and not being organized was viewed as being, at the least ill-informed and at the worst just plain lazy.
Now fast forward to the present, how the times have changed! Today the threat of nuclear war is not our only worry. We have threats of biological, and chemical attacks, or fear of a global pandemics wiping out one quarter of the earths population. And don’t forget the falling asteroids or comets from the sky repeating the extension event that killed all the dinosaurs, or civil and social collapse due to terror attacks or revolution and riots. Then you throw in the 2012 prophecy, and being prepared is even more important and much harder than ever before.
People think you are a tinfoil hat wearing crazy nut job if you talk about being prepared, you are called a survivalist throwback to the bomb shelter days. The comment that bothers me the most is when a person says that they would prefer to die at the beginning rather than suffer trying to survive. My reply to that is, “can you intentionally watch your grandchildren slowly die because you are lazy and unprepared.” Personally I can’t, and that brings me to the reason for this article.
After 9-11, I began to think about survival, not just for me but for my family and especially my grandchildren. My entire adult life I have tried to provide for my family by making things safe for them. But I never gave much thought about preparing for a prolonged disaster and survival if the unthinkable happens. I started to think about the things I would need to do to be better prepared. My brother and sister have been quietly organizing for years so I knew who to go to for information.
A visit with my older brother out of state opened my eyes to how big a challenge it is to truly be properly equipped. The following is the easy and time tested way to build up our family food stores.
Getting started with the basics:
Every trip to the grocery store I purchased extra of the basic foods.
Beans, dried of all types, and came in large 25 lb bags or as small as 1 lb bag.
Rice, long grain white or brown, pasta, noodles and spaghetti.
Oats rolled old fashioned, corn meal, processed white flower.
Sugar, honey, salt, cooking spices, dried yeast, cooking oil, and powdered milk.
Wheat, if you can find it. Hard Red winter wheat is better for long term storage.
It does not take long to begin to build a food store when you start to purchase just a few of the basics. Always remember to look at the expiration date on any caned foods you purchase. Something I learned is that SPAM, canned salmon and canned tuna have very long shelf lives and can be rotated in your food store for a variety in cooking choices.
The Learning Curve Begins
Then I got out my old and dusty, Nesco American Harvest food dehydrator and jerky maker. After talking with my sister by phone about shelf life I found that you can dehydrate almost all frozen vegetables very easily. So I began learning how to dry all our favorite foods.
I started with frozen corn from the grocery store in one lb. bags. I waited until they went on sale and got 20 bags. My Nesco has a temperature dial and according to instructions you set the temperature at 135 degrees. I moved the dehydrator into the garage when I found that the smell of drying corn fill the house. In the beginning you will check on the unit every hour or so, kind of like watching grass grow. So I decided to fill the dehydrator in the evening and let it run all night while I slept.
The 20 one pound bags were processed five bags at a time for about 14 hours, and the total of that drying will fit into a single quart mason jar. I found that if you use a grocery store brown paper bag you can put the 13-½ inch drying tray inside the bag before dumping the tray. And after all five trays were put into the bag you can fold the corner and use it as a spout while pouring the contents into the quart Mason jars.
Another phone call to my brother and sister who have been preparing for years and I knew how to seal the jars of dehydrated corn. By placing the open jars in my oven with the temperature on its lowest setting which is about 170 degrees. Let the jars sit for two hours to heat up, then put your lids and rings into a pot of boiling water for a couple minutes, take out the jars one at a time and put them on a dish towel, use your caning magnet to pull the lid and ring out of the boiling water, wipe off the moisture and place the lid insert on top of the jar then thread on the ring only finger tight. After a short time you hear the pretty sound of the cans sealing with a loud ping each time the jar seals. Now your can of dehydrated corn is ready for long term storage if you did it all correctly it will last for many many years.
The key to long term food storage is keeping the food, no matter how it is prepared, in a cool dry place. Temperature extremes are bad for food storage even when the food is dehydrated. A hot garage is definitely not the place to store food. So with that in mind I have converted one small bedroom closet into my food locker. The room is air-conditioned so the temperature stays fairly constant.
My home dehydrated food supply now consists of Corn, Green beans, Carrots, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Okra, “sweet peas my favorite,” Spinach, Celery, cucumbers, Apples, and Blueberries. All of this food and more is available from several different sources but I prefer to learn how to process it my self. Learning how to survive is more than opening a can it is learning and teaching for the future generations.
Learning to grow your own food
My brother who lives in Washington State visited me four years ago here in Houston and he complimented me on my well kept yard and flower garden. He added that unless I know how to eat grass and flowers there is nothing in my yard that you can eat and live on. That was my awakening and I began to learn how to raise my own vegetables. Since my back yard is very small I had to teach myself how to grow just a few of my favorite veggies in a limited space. The first two years I purchased starter plants from the nursery and they worked well. But this year I am learning how to grow my own garden from seed packages. It is important to re-learn what our grand parents knew from childhood.
It is a learning process, not enough water, or to much water. Then the quality of soil is a big deal in gardening. I learned that it is important to gain as much knowledge as you can so I purchased a book written by our local extension agent. It is filled with the right kind of information to grow plants in our local area. I am teaching both my granddaughters about gardening and when the radishes or small onions get ready to pick they help and will eat some right out of the ground. I am trying to make gardening generational.
Next is picking the proper fruit trees for my area and of course learned how to keep them producing a good crop. Lack of adequate room is a problem so I picked a single self pollinating apple and plum, and because my neighbor has a peach tree I got one that will use his for pollination. My daughter gave me a dwarf lemon tree that is giving me fits but I think its growing well now. Being retired gives me a lot of time to spend in my home garden and I think it has improved my health some.
It needs to be a family undertaking
Getting the family onboard and thinking survival was the next obstacle. For the last nine years my wife has been agreeable and letting me slowly prepare our food store. My children on the other hand did not understand the importance of being prepared for emergencies. To them an emergency is a couple of days without electricity. So they let me build my family food store and they all know where to come and what to bring in an emergency. Keeping the family involved is important and gives everyone structure.
I have started an event called survival food Sunday held once a month where my family will get together at my home to learn how to prepare and eat dehydrated and survival food. It is a good way for me to learn the best way to prepare certain foods and to rotate my older stocks. My family is starting to understand what I have been saying for years and as a family unit we will have a good shot of growing old together no matter what happens.
There is much much more that I could write about but I wanted to tell you how easy it is to begin to build you family food store. I am not an expert just a regular guy that wants his family to have an advantage in any emergency.