When people find out that I believe in preparing for an uncertain future they assume that I have a bunker full of # 10 cans and MREâ€™s. Iâ€™m sorry to disappoint but nothing could be further from the truth. What I actually have is an ordinary farmhouse basement and it probably looks a lot more like your grandmotherâ€™s basement used to than it does a bunker.
The shelves are full of lovely jewel-toned jars of home-canned cherries and peaches, pickled vegetables and crocks of fermenting kraut. One tall cabinet is needed to house the sauces, apple and tomato, and another cabinet is devoted to juices. There is nary a MRE to be found. The truth is that I love food preservation and even if all of the worldâ€™s woes with energy and debt were to disappear tomorrow, I would still spend my summer days preserving the bounty of the gardens and orchard here at Barefoot Farm.
Now just because I love preserving food doesnâ€™t mean that Iâ€™m not always on the lookout for tools and gadgets to make the job easier. This June, just as the sweet cherries began to ripen I started thinking about how I was going to handle pitting them. Last year, it took about four hours to pit enough to fill 24 quart jars. That was with both adults (me and my husband, Bruce) and two kids working full tilt with four pitters. It might have gone faster without my youngest but giving a child real work is how they learn and speed isnâ€™t always the most important thing. It took another hour to move all of the furniture and wash the kitchen floor as cherry pits had flown all over. Itâ€™s a messy job, no doubt about it. Itâ€™s a good thing weâ€™re all so partial to cherry pie.
Help arrived this year in the form of a German-Made Cherry Pitter. This is one of those tools that may only be used a few times a year but will pay for the space it takes up in my preservation cabinet many times over. It has a hopper that will hold about two cups of cherries saving the time of loading a conventional pitter one cherry at a time. Then itâ€™s a simple matter of pressing down on a plunger and spearing a cherry. The pit drops into a closed container, the pitted cherry drops into a bowl and the next cherry is ready to go. It safe enough to let a small child use and it keeps the kitchen neat and tidy. Clean-up was simple too and I didnâ€™t need to wash the floor when I finished.
There was one other benefit I hadnâ€™t considered. Each year, I keep out a bowl of my most perfect cherries for canning and displaying at our local agricultural fair. It can be a challenge to find perfect cherries as some pitters rather mangle the fruit. This year, nearly every jar is fair-ready. The cherries were almost universally perfect.
When I think about being prepared for whatever life throws at us I consider carefully how I invest. Purchased food storage programs will feed your family for a while but the food will be unfamiliar and eventually it will be gone and then what? It makes a lot more sense to me to invest in the tools and equipment I need to provide my family with the means to grow and preserve food right where I live. What I donâ€™t grow I purchase from local farmers. We eat the food every day and support our local food shed too. Itâ€™s a win-win for the whole community.
Editor’s Note: Kathy Harrison is a nationally-known advocate on the topic of responsible preparation for families. She’s the author of Another Place at the Table and One Small Boat, dealing with foster parenting. Her latest book is Just in Case: How to be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens. This is the first of her blog articles for Lehman’s Country Life.