Since things really aren't that crazy around here yet I figured I would take time and share some of our mistakes made during the winter season. We are new at this after all, and maybe our mistakes will help some of you just starting off. All in all our first full winter here was a success. The few minor hiccups we experienced didn't lesson our quality of life at all. My children are happy and healthy and currently climbing the walls in anticipation of the fair weather ahead.
The first good thing is we didn't starve. I know all of you are laughing at that statement because anyone with good sense knows if you run out of the food you have stored you can go to the grocery store.. crisis averted. However that's not what this lifestyle is about. Last Spring I set certain rules that were to be followed the first of which was only a monthly trip to the grocery store was allowed and only to buy thing we can't produce on the farm and absolutely under no circumstances anything eatable that was not grown locally. So with these limitation set by myself for myself I think we did fairly well these past months.
I stuck to the rules and was still able to turn out a meal every night. We ran out of carrots back in January so I know to plant lots more of those this spring. Same with tomatoes for pasta sauce and to dice with peppers for other meals. Items that need to be stocked up on more include sugars, coffee, and butter since it freezes well. As for the sugar I'm attempting this year to stuck up on locally made syrup and honey wishing of course to cut out the processed white stuff forever. This however is more easily said than done. The cost of purchasing said syrup and honey is considerably high. Unfortunately our forested acreage dose not include maple trees so there's no hope in producing our own maple syrup. We do however have birch trees and have found in reading that syrup can be made from them. Not the high quality stuff from maples but still a viable alternative. The only problem with this is that it takes 100 gallons of birch sap to make 1 gallon of syrup as opposed to the 50 gallons of maple sap it takes. All in all though I'm making it a point to at least check out the cost of supplies and have a go at it next spring.
I decided to use a corner of our basement furthest from our wood stove into a make shift root cellar last fall and I was seriously impressed with what will keep well over the winter months. We of course had all our canned goods and are still actually working on the peas and green beans. As I said before the carrots disappeared quicker than I would have thought and also the corn even though it doesn't really have any nutritional value. I purchased winter squash in the fall last year about 45 lbs or so and that kept nicely till about mid February.
We had more than enough potatoes and its a good thing too. Around Early January I noticed on of my large Rubbermaid tubs of potatoes had started to sprout. In about 3 weeks the whole bucket had half a foot sprout shooting out of them. Of course I was slightly alarmed and began wondering if the basement was to hot or other such nonsense. I went out and found a book on preserving food by root cellaring and other methods besides the all expensive canning method, and found out that you do not store apples in close proximity with potatoes. Apparently the gases the apples emit cause the potatoes to sprout. Oops. We had another tub of potatoes that were doing fine and it had no effect on the apples. The only lose is that instead of having potatoes left over that can go toward seed I have to repurchase seed this year. An unfortunate event because I hadn't budgeted for another 200lbs of seed potatoes, but oh well, live and learn.
Another good thing, we didn't freeze. This is a very good thing. The winter this year was very kind in snow only 3-4 feet or so, but ridiculously brutal in cold. Three days in January the temperature dipped 50 below zero. I began to wonder if we moved to northern Maine or Fairbanks Alaska.Our house is anything but weather tight, and we're working on that. We need new siding, new windows, and a new roof asap. But above all else what we need is money to do these things, so for now we make do with what we have.
As the winter approached last year gas and oil prices began to drop but not enough that we could see heating our drafty house with it. So we went out a splurged on a "new"used wood stove and purchased 6 cords of fire wood to make it through the winter. We purchased the wood because we didn't have time to cut it our selves. A mistake we will not be making this year. Wood cutting is now a major priority. Through trial and error we gradually began to understand how to heat the house with wood. From banking the fire at night to making sure the fire didn't go out during the day even if the temperature in the house was fair. The reason for this was because the chimney of the stove is directly in the center of our house. If there is a constant fire going the chimney heats up and in turn heats the whole house even the bedrooms. But if the fire is allowed to die out and the chimney cools it takes hours before you can heat the chimney again to where the temperature upstairs is comfortable.
At about March we noticed we were at the end of our firewood but not at the end of the cold weather. We broke down and ordered 100 gallons of oil for $500 and began to look for a source of wood to take us till spring. We found it when a neighbor of ours was remolding his barn. He came right to our house and asked if we wanted the partially rotted wood for the fire. Of course we said yes and were very grateful, and are currently burning that wood right now. The thought "God will provide" crossed my mind.
The last good thing: We didn't kill each other. Winter is long here. long, long, long. It starts around Halloween and lasts till the first week of May and some years I'm told it can snow in June. I really will take everyone's word on that, It's an event I need not see for myself. So the fact that we have survived these many months in a half remodeled house of 1400sqft on top of one another is a feet of great proportion. The addition we began last year we hope will be finished before the cold descends upon us again. It will give us the much need privacy from one another that was a source of discontent this winter. We're a strong family though and we made it through still loving each other and above all liking each others company.
That about sums up the long winter we've endured up here and it's now chicken coop building time. The birds are set to arrive the first week of May. I couldn't get exactly what I originally wanted for birds but I'm happy about the selection made just the same. Twenty White Rocks are coming and ten Silkie Bantams. Can't wait to see them. I'll post pictures as soon as they arrive.
Bye for now!!