Winter prep…and some thoughts

524 jars of….stuff.

No, I didn’t do all of that this year…maybe 2/3 of it. I’ve a good friend that’s probably doubled my efforts – both of us are determined to be set for winter, and we both hide in our kitchens most of the summer. Of course there are things on those shelves that won’t all get eaten this winter – pickles? I’m the only one who eats them. But I don’t like to can small amounts of anything, if you’re going to mess up the kitchen you might as well mess it up right.

Food security/insecurity – whatever you want to call it, is a very real thing. Supply chain issues, the economy, straight up shortages, skyrocketing prices…none of us are immune. Growing up on a farm I watched my mom slave in the kitchen every year – canning, freezing, my dad butchering and minding the smoker, us kids weeding the garden and processing the chickens. I was oblivious- it didn’t occur to me it was anything other than a lot of work, it didn’t occur to me my mom was trying to save money. My dad did well as a grain farmer, my mom was the postmaster for a large part of northern Alberta – a well paying career in a government job. Still – the majority of her off hours were spent putting up food, or jumping in where needed on the farm.

Mom on the Massey pulling the root rake

I come from a long line of farmers…mind you if anybody were to go back far enough I would think there are farmers/homesteaders somewhere in the family line. On my dad’s side, my grandfather came up from Minnesota and settled in central Alberta. Broke ground with a team of horses. On my moms side, my great grandfather owned a dairy in Alberta, my grandfather owned a dairy in southern BC. All of them lived through some very hard times – and when I’m feeling particularly fatigued, fed up with the workload, I remind myself I have it easy.

Great grandfather
Family slaughter day…I say ‘family’ because once the men are done here, the women would have had an equal amount of work ahead of them.

So yes, easy. I get asked on occasion, why I insist on doing things the ‘hard way’ – and I think hmmmm….define ‘hard’. I don’t turn my field over with a team of horses – should I want it plowed I can call any number of people I know to plow it. I dont slaughter large livestock at home – I pick up the phone and call the slaughterhouse. Should my garden fail, a twenty minute drive has me standing in one of many grocery stores. I have choices my ancestors did not – yet I wonder, who had more food security?

A little over six months ago I lost three freezers full of food to the fire. Should I have been relying on so many freezers? Should I have been putting more into shelf stable canning? Should I have turned those dozens and dozens of pints of butter into shelf stable ghee? Should I be raising meat birds that at twelve weeks can barely walk and need to be dispatched? Or do I keep a flock of random heritage breed birds and simply pluck one up and dispatch it when I have a yen for chicken?

From wood storage to chicken shed…I’ve always grown this garden bed for the chickens and fed it out. I’ve opened it in the back so they have access now – they’ve decimated the peas, and most of the kale.

I don’t just have it easy, I’ve been spoiled. I find it impossible to eat a store bought chicken – yes there is a difference. And it’s a difference my tastebuds can no longer tolerate. Butter – what in the hell are they doing with the butter? Turns out – feeding the cows palm oil supplement – so now I have butter that is pale, slightly pasty margarine texture, that literally won’t melt when left out, and has climbed to six dollars a pound.

The events of this year have dictated we did not milk…at the moment Buttercup is off on a lengthy date with a bull, her calf has survived the weaning…next year we will be set up to milk again. Fingers crossed.

Quick wood shed – not finished. When it’s full, we’re good for heat/cooking until spring.

As I said at the top of the post – winter prep, and some thoughts. I’ll leave you with a picture of the ridiculous dog – who prefers to drink his water straight from the well hydrant 😊


About valbjerke

Farmer, Transmission Rebuilder, Self Sufficiency Nut. Like the old school way of doing things. "Fast is fine - accuracy is final" (quote by some way back famous gun-slinger - likely just before he got shot dead)
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7 Responses to Winter prep…and some thoughts

  1. marilyn says:

    Some pretty speciall pictures! Yes, we have it easy, and thanks for the reminder that the hard stuff is really worth doing. Even if the crops failed they knew that there were things in the woodlot that would keep them from starving. I’m happy to see you have the wood in for winter and I’m envious of all those jars that I know will taste so much better than anything I can buy in the store. And yes, the butter is not butter anymore!

  2. DM says:

    We butchered 5 old sows a couple of years go on the farm. (not quite as big as the one in your picture but close. Learned a couple of lessons..#1 Sows do not have the belly fat for bacon I thought they would have…(side pork is one of my favorite cuts) #2 if you plan to butcher anything over 250#, you better have thought through the logistics of how you’re going to handle even 1/2 of the carcass. What a work out!!! Trying to get that meat carried into the walk in cooler so it could hang. I too come from a long line of farmers. Didn’t realize it until much later in life, the amount of wisdom it takes to do all of the things farmers do managing crops, livestock, etc. Good to read your update! DM

    • valbjerke says:

      Hi! We’ve done up a sow like that…large project! I’m more than game to cut, wrap, cure, smoke – but that was an awful lot of pig 😬. Good to hear from you too.
      I don’t think I know half of what my dad knew, or my grandparents…remarkable people, old time farmers.

  3. Eydie says:

    Always enjoy your blogs.

  4. steveknife says:

    We truly have it easy compared to my ancestors. Canning and freezing everything we could but you always wonder if more shelf stable goods could be produced. Stay strong and free!

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