Winter is coming.
A couple of weeks ago, I stood at my kitchen window in the early morning. Looking through the fog, I saw one single, yellowed leaf float down from the trees. My throat tightened. Last week in the same early morning time at my sink, I saw several more fall, dancing gracefully. Friday, I crested the steep hill on my road to see the Appalachians displaying change visible from a great distance. Today, I see the trees across the street are turning. Red and yellow. This morning, I had to grab a robe when I got up. The kids complained their feet were cold on the wooden floors. Friends are telling me the Blue Ridge Parkway, not far from home, already has yellows, oranges and reds beautifully visible.
Winter is coming. Soon.
Every year at this time, a panic sets in. My attitude grows… realistic. Some people would refer to that as ‘bleak’ or ‘pessimistic,’ but I consider myself to be a realist. Winter will be here soon, we must be ready for its unscheduled but inevitable arrival. Ignoring it doesn’t change the march of time or the work that needs be accomplished before then. Homesteaders don’t comfort themselves with the illusion that everything will just magically appear at the grocery store or Wal-mart at an affordable price, day after day.
Winter is coming and the uncertainty of the economy only makes the coming winter worse.
The inability to grow an appreciable amount food through the winter bothers me most. It isn’t long before the summer crops will be totally dead. But no matter this year, since the garden was a total flop. The published prices for the Farmer’s Market have seen some unusual swings this year, keeping me from freezing, lacto-fermenting and canning as I normally do. Little fresh produce is available through the winter and the monotony of a continual line-up of root vegetables has me climbing walls and planning gardens bigger than possible by February. Therefore, I consider canned tomatoes (and bright spices like curry powder) to be of the utmost importance. Winter gardening for us hasn’t panned out yet, as getting set up for it takes considerable time and materials. It seems everyone else had the same ideas thanks to the economy, and the materials that used to be abundant on freecycle have disappeared. We hope to be able to construct the cold frames this coming year and use them next Winter.
No more baby chicks until Spring. Only three remain this year thanks to some mistakes we made, which means there won’t be as much meat for the freezer. Live and learn and don’t repeat the same mistake next year. How are we going to deal with their freezing water again this year when it gets so cold outside? Breaking ice makes my hands scream, leaving me with a burning ache that takes about an hour to go away. I am thankful for a well-insulated chicken coop and the ability to free-range my brood, although we do leave them indoors if we’re concerned they could get hypothermia. Last year, they spent more days locked in their coop than I would have liked, thanks to the low temperatures and mountain winds.
The Farmer’s Almanac tells us we’re in for another colder and snowier winter than normal.
How much snow will we get this year? Do we have enough firewood? Last year, despite over-planning and thinking we had a jump on this year, we still ran short on firewood and had a close call thanks to a hard winter and an ice storm that took out our power for days. We prayed and the Lord stretched the wood we had while we called ad after ad, looking for any available wood. The wood we had ran out soon after the new wood was delivered. We knew the Lord had answered our prayers and stretched what was normally a couple of day’s worth of wood into over a week.
I wonder how my great-grandmother felt this time of year, knowing if she didn’t have it all done before the winter hit, her ability to get it from the store didn’t come with any ease. They lived on the far side of the middle of nowhere, an early-teen bride with a new husband, chickens, cattle, a big garden and a home to care for. Her first baby came at 16, a heavy responsibility on top of what was likely already a huge load to carry. I can’t imagine having a baby tied on my back while I wring the necks of chickens and process them alone or hoe, harvest and can an acre of garden while my husband works acres away, tending cattle. A trip to town was a rarity given the time and distance involved. Your neighbors were your lifeline. If I run short, I can still get what I need from a store, provided we can afford the price. With the economy (and the weather) going as it is, there is no guarantee I can afford what we need, or if it would even be available when it is needed.
Winter is coming.
Are we ready for what lies ahead?
Thanks to the encroaching cold, I’ve made an early return to comfort food. Potato soup is my husband’s favorite soup, and I’ve been making it the last two weeks to eat regularly as a lunch or a pre-dinner way to get bone broth into the whole family.
From the Menu Mailer
Volume 4 Week 8
1 onion, diced
6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 cups beef or chicken stock
1 can coconut milk or 2 cups heavy cream
½ cup coconut oil or butter
1 tsp salt
1 or more tsp garlic granules or powder
1 pound cubed ham or cooked and crumbled bacon, optional
Place the onion and potato in a crock-pot and cover with the chicken stock. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the potatoes are tender. Uncover and mash until the soup is of the consistency you like- we enjoy only small chunks left. Add the remaining ingredients and re-cover (or leave uncovered if you’d like the soup to thicken a bit). Cook on low until thoroughly heated. Adjust salt and garlic, if needed, before serving.