Monday, August 29, 2011
Posted by Kate at 6:40 PM
It's been quite a week; earthquake and hurricane alike in a region not known for either phenomenon. The earthquake was at least as palpable as any I experienced in 14 years of living in California. I was staggered to learn how far we were from the epicenter. In the moment it felt to me like a very local event. We took the hurricane seriously and prepared by clearing the yard of potential projectiles, storing water, getting all the laundry and dishes done, filling the empty space in the chest freezer with bottles of water, keeping the oil lamps and matches handy, and taking showers a few hours before the storm was due. We came through unscathed, with only a brief loss of power. We're near a major hospital and I suspect our grid is somehow "privileged" because of that. Our power loss may have been only a second or two; it happened while we slept. We got about as much rain as predicted, roughly seven inches (18 cm). The chickens weren't at all happy about the extremely waterlogged backyard, but the sun shone beautifully today and chickens have very short memories. All signs point to the ground drying out fairly quickly.
Hurricane Irene gave us a jumpstart on the apple thinning that our old apple tree usually commences in late summer. These apples are still undersized and have developed nothing of the sweetness they will hold in a couple of months. (We don't know the variety, but it harvests exceptionally late.) For the past couple of years I've collected the early drops and donated them to my farming friend for her hogs. We typically can give her as many as ten or twelve buckets-full over the course of a six weeks or so. The pigs don't mind the incredible tartness of the apples apparently, and my friend is happy to accept free food which she knows has not been sprayed with anything. Though her farm is not certified organic, she has a good relationship with her customers which is based on trust and integrity. She'll accept any sort of excess garden produce she has confidence in, as well as acorns or hickory nuts for her pigs.
I am happy to provide the unripe windfalls to her. At the cost of very little effort to myself, these sour fruits can provide value as food, if slightly indirectly. I don't even have to take them to her since her husband passes our home on his way to work. He picks up the buckets on his way home and returns the empties later in the week. I see this as another instance of something from nothing. This is a prominent aspect of my homesteading mentality - making an effort to prevent waste and finding a way to get value out of what would otherwise be useless.
Of course, it doesn't hurt at all that farming friend often donates to me the hog jowls that her customers disdain. We have no formal agreement on this, and I always offer her half the jowls back after I've turned them into guanciale. I definitely feel that I get the better end of the bargain. But the reality is that both of us are making an effort to reduce waste, and we both benefit. I cannot recommend it highly enough to aspiring homesteaders: make friends with small-scale local farmers! It's good to know other gardeners too, but farmers and homesteaders can benefit each other in many ways.
I'll mention also the other use of unripe apples that fall from the tree, even though I have only theoretical knowledge of it. Apples are very high in pectin, and the more so the less ripe they are. Before powdered or liquid pectin was commercially available in stores, underripe apples were used to thicken jams and jellies. Just as with most old domestic arts, this one is still viable today. If you have your own apple tree and were so inclined you could use early windfalls and drops as a free substitute for store bought pectin. I've no doubt google would furnish you with the details. If I ever become so ambitious, I promise a blog post will be forthcoming.
Labels: preventing waste