Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

How does a newbie prepare for a HOMEGROWN winter?

It's still only October, but as the leaves turn and the temperature drops (ever so slightly here in the Northeast), I can't help but anticipate the impending winter that's just around the corner.


It's my first summer out of the college dormitory where heat, hot water, and electricity were "free".  (Ok, so I did pay an inflated cost for them at the beginning of each semester, but when there were no monthly bills to pay, everything seemed FREE!!) But now I'm living in my own apartment with other "young professionals" and we're trying to winterize to avoid obscene costs later on. So what's a HOMEGROWN newbie to do?!


My apartment, unfortunately and upsettingly, is heated by oil.  It seems archaic to me, too, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  With the cost of crude rising, I'm in for a long and expensive winter.  The Farmers' Almanac claims the Northeast will see the typical cold (and relatively snowy) winter it had last year, so add the cost of heating fuel to other utilities and rising food costs and I'm in for a rough season. Any tips for keeping out the drafts?


What can I do to winterize and HOMEGROWNize my life in other ways? I know that I should have started canning months ago, and preserving as much as I can through the fall, but I'm a little behind the game now, and daunted by the tasks ahead.  What is a good staple food to can? I ate pears and peaches all winter since they were canned early enough. I'm thinking of trying to freeze some veggies for the long haul.  What tips do you folks have? I can no longer stuff my face with all-you-can-eat dining hall fare, and I can't stomach pasta for dinner every night, so any tips on stocking up on "fresh" foods are appreciated! Hoping to make some apple butter this weekend!


Other changes I'm making: I joined a co-op market  recently, which offers excellent benefits and discounts for members. Lots of the produce is local and you can buy dry goods in bulk! I'm attempting to make some of my own cleaning products, like laundry and dish detergents, and bars of soap.  I'm learning to knit, and repurposing old clothes, instead of blindly buying new ones. I'm cooking more and eating out less, and trying to make good decisions at the market.


While these ventures have been fun and exciting for a newbie just starting a nest, adopting the HOMEGROWN lifestyle still feels a little daunting. I can't raise animals on my patch of lawn, it's getting a little cold for a garden, and I'm still trying to learn the ropes of canning and food preservation. How did you experienced folks start living HOMEGROWN or homesteading? What are some absolutely fundamental and easy ways to get going and to feel accomplished.  I feel like I'm not authentic and I'm sometimes frustrated. How about you?  Let's hear what you're up to, your advice to amateurs, and how to kick start HOMEGROWN living in the colder months.


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Comment by Ginger Watkin on October 18, 2011 at 1:30pm


t is never too late to start.  One thing I do every year is chop and freeze things like fresh tomatoes (diced up and frozen, they add a fresh flavor added to chile Homemade or canned, spaghetti sauce, etc.  I also chop and freeze fresh jalapeno, pasilla and anaheim chili's to add to my homemade chile over the winter.  You can dice and freeze or puree and freeze cooked butternut or acorn squash, making them much easier to use in the winter.  And, it's not too late to pickle - I just put up jars of sweet and spicy butternut squash along with dilled green beans.  If you have a Farmer's Market near you, pick up tomatoes and beans.  Dill the beans and dry or freeze the tomatoes for use during the winter months.

If you have ANY space outside - plant in pots or those big plastic tubs they sell for kids rooms (just make sure to put drainage holes in the bottom.  I planted my first "crop" in those tubs, pepper and tomato plants.  Then when the weather changed, I put wooden stakes around the outside and wrapped the things in plastic, to help them stay warmer.  Got a few more weeks out them and some additional ripened food.  Good luck.

Comment by Aliza Ess on October 18, 2011 at 2:56pm
I got started planting in big buckets like many people but to be honest I think the yields aren't usually that great unless you really focus on the design of the bucket. I don't think you should ever feel like you aren't "authentic" enough... it can get hard hanging out with so many homegrown-y folks who do it all themselves that you feel bad for going to the grocery store and getting a bag of Goldfish crackers or something! This winter I'm looking forward to doing some sprouting, catching up on reading, practicing baking bread which I am still terrible at, and making lots of soups. Learning how to quilt might be awesome but I'm afraid that's a little ambitious!
Comment by Caroline Malcolm on October 20, 2011 at 10:05am

Wow - thanks so much for the advice! 


Dandy Lynn - I have borrowed a copy of Radical Homemakers.  I have heard so many wonderful things about Shannon and this book, and I can't wait to dive in.  Your idea of starting a blog about your own HOMEGROWN journey is wonderful. I have checked out your posts here on HOMEGROWN, and I love them!  It must be nice to see your progress! I definitely can relate to the feelings of being overwhelmed. The Little House series is a beautiful collection of stories and it's a creative way to find new skills!


Aliza - I haven't tried container gardening, but I do want to try sprouting this fall/winter.  It does feel hard when I am not as HOMEGROWN as the next person, but I have come far in just knowing new things, and I am becoming a resource for my friends who are also taking this plunge.  I would love to learn to quilt - I have so many clothing/fabric scraps to use up, so that might be a good winter project.  Let me know how it goes!


Ginger - I followed your advice and started freezing some of the veggies I have around the kitchen.  I froze some squashes (it was hard not to just cook and eat them), which will make for easier meals later on.  I did make a big batch of homemade tomato sauce, which I froze for freshness in the dreary winter months.  There's something about buying processed foods that gets to me when I know that I can make it on my own, so this is a good way to make a lot and save a lot! I hope to make and freeze some soups this weekend.  I definitely want to try container gardening! Sounds like you've had success!


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