In these times of economic uncertainty, the principle of preparing for winter helps us understand how to prepare for the uncertainty of the economic future. If you want to be self-sufficient in raising your own food, how many months’ supply of food do you need to store up for the winter? Three months’ supply? Four months’ supply? Six months’ supply? Our ancestors understood the importance of raising food and storing it up for the winter when they couldn’t grow food, and neither could anyone else around them. We have lost touch with what it means to store up food for the winter.
As a boy in the 1970’s I loved to explore my grandma’s basement. There were so many things to look at. It was so full of stuff that there were only paths to get around the basement. In one corner there were shelves that went from floor to ceiling, full of jars of canned fruits and vegetables from her garden. Plus there were boxes stacked on the floor that had more jars of canned food. The lid of each jar had on it the year when it was canned. I quickly discovered that she had at least two years’ supply of food from her garden in that corner. She used the oldest jars first, so she was always eating from what she had grown two or more years before. There were two freezers and they were always stuffed full of food year round. It was just her and my one single uncle that lived in the house, and yet every year she still planted two large gardens, one on either side of the house.
I thought at the time that my grandma was excessive in having so much food stored in her basement. However, in reflecting back on her food storage method, I learned an important lesson about how much food needs to be stored for food self-sufficiency. Just enough food to make it through the winter is not enough. If a person wants to be self-sufficient as much as possible food wise, you need to have more than just one years supply of food. In gardening, you never know how much of a particular vegetable will be produced each year. One year you will get a great crop and the next year little or nothing. If you only have enough to last one year, you will be without that particular vegetable until the next year.
There is another reason for storing several years worth of food. Grandma lived through the Great Depression and raised 12 children. She understood the importance of having food on hand. A two years’ supply of food enables a person to have time to adapt to whatever happens. A person with only a one week supply of food is quickly in an emergency crisis if something happens and they are not able to purchase food. There are a lot of things a person can live without. If a person can’t afford to live in a house, it is possible to live in a tent. However, if a person can’t purchase food, sawdust will not substitute!
My grandfather used to tell the story of a man who wanted to cut the cost of feeding his horse. So he started gradually converting the horse over to eating sawdust. He slowly increased the amount of sawdust that he added to the feed. Everything was going well and he almost had the horse converted over to eating all sawdust, when the horse died! 🙂
The principle of preparing for winter for self-sufficiency is, that a person needs at least one year’s supply of food and preferably two years’ worth. In preparing for economic uncertainty, if we have shelves full of food, and the clothes we need for the next year or two, it gives a satisfaction and comfort that having $10,000 in the bank does not give. You feel like a squirrel that has stored up its nuts for the winter.