We are coming out of the wintertime which makes for a big change in our lifestyle.
Over the winter, the gardens are dormant, there really isn’t anything fresh to pull out of the garden other than a bit of winter lettuce late in the season. We really eat very few fresh vegetables during that time. Instead, we are pulling vegetables that we either preserved in the freezer for things like stew and chili.
The way we eat since moving to the farm, really changes with each season but it is most apparent during the winter.
We work slowly (well, sometimes fast) to finish up our garden harvesting before the first freeze and work at getting all of those vegetables canned, stored in the basement or put into the freezers.
Our basement has a different look and our freezers start to fill up with vegetables and chickens we have harvested and prepared.
We move from the majority of our time spent outside in the garden, to spending more and more time indoors. We start eating more “comfort” foods, foods that are heavier and include a lot of root vegetables and meats. Those vegetables that are easiest to store are the ones that end up in our dinner over the winter.
We still work outside in the winter to care for the animals, but we definitely spend more time at the table eating, lingering, and we crave those heavier foods.
Now that spring is here, we make that slow shift back outside. We are already getting some fresh lettuce from the greenhouse and many plants are started in our grow room (and Keith’s office) which is in our basement.
In the summer we are using a bit less meat (most of the time) and using the BBQ grill more often. We tend to make our lunches very short so we can get back outside to all the work that awaits. We eat lighter and we crave more salads and cold foods to help us brave the heat.
It is still a learning curve for me to focus more and more on creating a seasonal diet rather than just running to the grocery store and getting the same items no matter what the season. I’ll admit to picking up some strawberries in February when a craving hit! But by in large, I’m learning to focus on seasonal eating. Each season brings a wonderful selection that fit with just what we need.
I want to ask myself more, “What is in season now?” and try to plan meals around those seasons. Storable foods help us keep the pantry full so that fewer and fewer items have to be picked up at the store. We aren’t at a place yet where we can make all of our food for the winter without any grocery store trips. But we are much closer now than we ever have been before.
It is definitely a challenge and an ongoing learning experience for me. In many ways, I have found that canning, freezing and storing foods is actually easier than grocery store planning and it tastes so much better.
I have found that God gives us just what we need for each season and there is a real joy in changing our eating habits from season to season. Just as we get tired of the comfort foods, spring arrives and we look forward again to fresh tomatoes and salads and sweet peas off the vine. If we ate them like that year-round, I think boredom could set in. How much nicer it is to have the change of eating each season.
In the winter, the kitchen is the place I spend most time. In the summer the garden is where everyone can be found. It makes it fun and gives us much needed rest to change not only our food but our activities.
Winter also gives us time to spend more time together as the days are shorter and we have more time face-to-face. We have time to read and relax and reconnect after a hectic summer of farm work.
Spring comes and we are rejuvenated and ready to take on another growing season. It is also a time when we get to the bottom of our freezers and our food storage area and focus on getting those things eaten before we find ourselves harvesting again! This creates a lot of opportunity for creativity. The internet has helped me a lot with creative meals and I have come up with several of my own recipes to include the variety of vegetables that we have stored up.
All this really changes my meal planning! Such as the pork we have in the freezer, I have to go
easy on that so it will last until the next harvest from a neighboring farmer. So we focus on more things that we can toss on the grill such as hamburgers, since I have those in abundance. Or perhaps all those chicken leg packages we stored up that are just waiting for the BBQ.
It’s a neat thing to learn to work with whatever you have on hand. And it makes us really appreciate what comes out of the gardens in the summer, savoring every last tomato because we know that what we store is all that we will have through the winter of that particular item.
Learning how to best store things like onions, potatoes and carrots to get the longest life. Feeling excited to find that my green tomatoes wrapped in the basement, were turning red a few at a time so that we had “fresh” tomatoes as late as December! Little techniques such as this create a great feeling of sufficiency.
All this reminds us how glad we are to live in a state that experiences all these seasons so we can take advantage of each one! Even if you aren’t on a farm, you can slow down a bit in the winter, change your eating and cooking, and be patient with winter, enjoying what it brings.
Don’t rush it, spring will be here before you know it!