Managing the Larder

We are very busy in the greenhouse at the moment. New seeds are being started, in addition to potting up the seedlings that need larger accommodations. Here at the nursery, we make our own potting soil mix, and so the potting bench is always covered with a moistened mound of soil and an array of pots to be filled. Work to do, always work to do! I do love being in the greenhouse on a day that isn’t quite as “comfortable” outdoors. It feels like our own private cocoon. A little niche of spring and soil smells and green growth.
Picture 209Inside the house, I am looking into our storable food caches and circulating what needs to be used up. This week it has been rooting through the stored garlic, feeling for soft heads, and then finding ways to use them. Not a huge problem. It’s pretty common for us to use a whole head of garlic on a daily basis. The heads that need culling out are peeled, checked for bad spots, and then the individual cloves are stored in jars of olive oil, along with a few splashes of lemon juice.

homegrown chicken soup with garlic, foraged black trumpet mushrooms,  frozen kale and dried hot peppers.

homegrown chicken soup with garlic, foraged black trumpet mushrooms, frozen kale and dried hot peppers.

Picture 214The hot peppers that have been dried and stored in a cool room upstairs are being ground into cayenne or chili powder. Some will also be processed into hot pepper flakes. All these things are being done because soon these food supplies will be replaced with this years harvest. It’s always a matter of managing the larder.
All this has me thinking about the concept of home economics. I have a sense that years ago the idea of managing your home economy had more to do with a food bank than the cash in your pocket. It probably had a bit to do with both. In our own household, where growing or raising a significant amount of the food we eat is common practice, the food becomes a big part of our economy. It may not always be sold for cash money( in fact most of it isn’t) but it is given considerable value and managed as such. I like to think about the economy of small farms back in the day when growing and raising one’s own food was common as mud. Everything on the farm was considered into the economy of the place. Efficiency and frugality are put into good practice when your food systems, and quite possibly your livelihood, depend on it. Without a doubt, for as long as there has been a money currency, it has been included in the way we manage for what we need. But keep in mind, that before there was this type of monetary currency, the household economy was based on something very different. It was more likely an economy based on the food and wares you produced and services that could be rendered. I realize that in order to pay the light bill, I can’t really send them a pork roast and some home canned pickles to cover my portion of electrical use. It would be great if I could, and someone there may really appreciate it. But I can regulate the amount of electrical usage, and therefore control the monetary spending of our household. We work hard to see that the running of our household and farm are part of an economy based on what we need, use, and produce. I may decide to grow most all of our own vegetables, raise all of our meat, and knit our winter garments, but I’ll probably still buy chocolate. And avacados. And have to put gas in the car. I think consideration is a good measure to apply to any economy. And there’s always a lot to consider. A friend was over the other day and we were both working on some hand sewing projects. She’s a young mom with three kids and has the good talent of being able to sew or knit most of their clothes. On this day she was mending a pair of well made wool long johns that had passed through the wearing of each child. They were on their last little pair of legs, I would say, but she was cleverly patching the knees and crotch and a bit of the bottom with scraps of wool fabric, teasing out their tattered life just a bit longer. I love this kind of thinking and doing. For her ( and for many of us), she could still see and assess the value of those long johns. That’s some of the consideration I’m talking about. Until they were completely irreparable, they continued to be part of her “home economy”. I guess it’s a differnt kind of cash flow. I think it makes sense. Common sense. Another old time practice in home economics.
I appreciate the idea of including the cash we may need, along with the food we raise and things we make, then giving them each a value that is appropriate. I also think if gratitude is added to the mix of this figuring, your off to a good start.
I don’t know if they still teach home economics in school. I hope they do, and I hope it still involves some real skill based learning. Perhaps some points on both time and money management as well. And also exploring the concept of the difference between what you want and what you really need in your life. These very words are best said by my friend Marguerite, who is 95 years old and still lives on her own. During the summer months, when yard sale signs throughout rural Maine are dotting the landscape, Marguerite piles into her car with all the “sale goers” in the neighborhood. Before stepping out to cruise the goods, she always says “well girls, remember… you want it or do you need it”. She should be teaching a home economics class.

4 comments on “Managing the Larder

    • Hi Sally,
      thanks for reading and I appreciate your comment. I think movement towards a more ” whole” economy, ont that includes garlic and hot peppers, is certainly on the rise here in rural Maine.

    • Hello Letha,
      Happy Spring! So glad to hear you’ve been reading the blog. Any signs of plants popping up at your place? We check daily here….and wait…and wish. Soon though. Thanks for commenting and perhaps we’ll see you during the season.

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