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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Food, Coming and Going

If you’ve ever done (food) gardening that consisted of more than a couple of 4x8-foot beds, which I’ve done a couple of times, you’ve learned that Harvest Time isn’t a single week in October. My mother-in-law is a serious gardener, which means a couple acres at a minimum — and she plants not only a lot of different veggies, but several varieties of each so there’s a steady stream of fresh food from July on into October. Or whenever the first frost hits, which on Planet Georgia can occasionally wait until November. So yesterday, we were picking in the tomatoes — if I have it right, there’s no less than six varieties of tomatoes: beefsteak (and she says, “Don’t plant a tomato whose name starts with B”) and one I forgot, which were what we mostly got last night; Romas (my favorite for dehydrating) which are just now starting to ripen; yellow pear (ditto, and they can sit on the counter for a month at a time without getting soft); Rutgers, and Tommy Toe (both of which are still green).

So we took a collection of buckets with us, and filled six of them before it got too dark to tell the ripe ones from the not-so-ripe ones. She spent a large part of today at the county cannery, putting up those and other harvested food — it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve really begun to appreciate the magnitude of what she does. We spend maybe $200/month on groceries, and that was typical when The Boy and Daughter Dearest lived with us, and griped about $400 food bills when we had Lobster and M.A.E. living here a couple years back. That turns out to be a rather paltry food bill — I’ve been reading articles lately about how a family of four ends up dumping $1600 at the grocery store (what are they doing, buying complete prepared meals?). Then there was yesterday: “I put up 60 quarts of veg-all,” she told me as we brought the tomato buckets back to the house. “Big V helped some.” I wouldn’t quite say we have complete food sovereignty here; but if the entire food distribution system went down tomorrow, we wouldn’t starve for a while.

We went up to North Carolina over the weekend to visit my mom — she was glad to be at the summer place, after “six weeks of living out of suitcases” in Michigan and Wisconsin. Daughter Dearest came along, which was a pleasant surprise for Mom, and we vegged out for the most part. But while we were there, M.A.E. called Mrs. Fetched (a relief… I was afraid something was amiss with The Boy again and we would have to leave early) with the latest. She and her SO are sharing a house with her sister and her sister’s husband; both of them have kids (the sister’s is 9 months old, M.A.E.’s is 3 months old and a cutie). But the sister-couple both quit their jobs shortly after they moved into the place, the summer electric bill is running around $200, and they needed a little food relief so they could deal with the rent and electricity. Way-ell, like I said, we can help with the food situation: we loaded up a case with 12 jars, some miscellaneous stuff kicking around in our pantry, and ran it over to her place last night. That should keep them going for a little while.

I don’t know if M.A.E. has developed any cooking skills or not, but this is pretty simple: put a jar in a pot, put it on the stove, let it get hot. One meat, one veggie, and we left them a loaf of bread too. We shall see, I guess.


  1. Hi Far. We (a family of 3) usually spend well over $100.00 per week on groceries. Of course we buy as much organic as we can, which adds to the cost. I grow a few odds and ends here. The grape tomatoes. the only ones that I really like, are starting to ripen in some numbers now. It's great that you can save so much money growing your own.

  2. B2, I'm not the one doing most of the work. 'Course, I'm having two hours of my day swallowed by a commute, so there's not much gardening time to be had.

    Grape tomatoes are great for salads, I'll bet.

  3. Hey FAR,
    Congrats to MIL for her ambitiousness! We used to try to do that too (I used to can incessantly in Sept), but we're content now to just get what we can from our little lot that measures in the feet, not acres.

    I picked our first 3 tomatoes yesterday and we've got corn coming on now, so things are remarkably good here this year, despite earlier setbacks!


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