Friday, 7 October 2011

On my mind . . .

Today I'm joining in with Rhonda Jean's Friday theme over on Down to Earth blog.

When we were in the New Forest recently, I made sure that I brought home several bags of wildings apples (these are apples which have grown from a pip from a discarded core, and some will later cross-pollinate with the natural crab apples). Apples from pips don't grow true - some trees which I grew from one of my apple trees here at home show two distinct fruits - one small and stripey and the other a large bland cooker which makes wonderful apple fluff. So it is with the trees on the Forest. This bright red apple looks sweet, but believe me, it wasn't as sweet as it looked like it should be! Such fruits make wonderful apple jelly though, and the wild crab apples make the best jelly (and wine) of all. I am making Wildings Apple Jelly this weekend.

I would like to preserve a lot more things by bottling, but there's the rub. It's the cost of acquiring all the preserving jars in the first place. I have basically priced the cost of a dozen 1000 ml glass preserving jars at £15 per 12 (that's a special price, they are normally offered at £20 per 12). That's a fairly big investment if you want to bottle up enough fruits to see you through the winter months and although they turn up at car boot sales, they don't turn up frequently enough! In America, some folk would have huge canning stores of anything up to 1,000 jars.

Which has made me think, we keep a reasonable store cupboard of tins and dried supplies, and do this by buying various things on offer or when we can afford it. We grow various fruit and vegetables in the garden and freeze/preserve them. We do what we can afford to do. And there's the rub - does that mean that being really self-reliant, that looking ahead to times of possible emergency when things fall apart for one reason or another, is purely the preserve of the better-heeled members of society, ones who already buy into this mindset and have stocked up? We as a family have already discovered that you need to fall back on such provisions when your personal economics make this necessary. Then the problem is to re-stock, when financially things are already tight. We have started small and gradually added to our stocks (and the glass jars!) but for some folk, even this is beyond them if they live very hand to mouth.

I could provide enough jam and chutney for ballast for the Titanic, but man does not live by jam alone! What do you do when you have a rotten summer and crop failures, or Blight on your spuds and Tomatoes, or the slugs get your beans time and time again and you have less home-grown produce than you need? On a tight budget, how do you cope with making up the shortfall of what you NEED?

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