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Feet to the Fire: Filling the Cellar While the Sun Shines

By Owen Segerstrom

The poplar leaves are starting to yellow, and while the mornings are getting a bit nippy, the afternoons are still blazing.  Must be September in Modoc, our family’s favorite time of year. With the first frost still (knock on wood) weeks away and the gardens and fruit trees at peak explosiveness, we are enjoying the show: pumpkins the size of medicine balls, perfectly ripe peaches and nectarines, a deluge of lemon cucumbers and cherry tomatoes…the list goes on.  It is all too easy to get lost in the moment with a 100% local BLT–pictured below–and forget about the long, lean, chilly months ahead. In years past, we have arrived at fall with a lonely cellar and way too many trips to the grocery store. Not this year. Thanks to the LFX, we have the motivation to dry, can, and ferment as much of the bounty from our garden (and other local producers!) as possible.

Local Fooc Challenge in Modoc County

Processing food is no joke.  Looking around our house this afternoon, it is easy to see how we have managed to procrastinate on (or skip entirely) our food preservation chores in years past.  Just a dozen or so cans of “dilly” green beans–thank you to the Larsen-Taylors for this lovely notion–generates an impressive pile of shucked ends, towering up from our kitchen table and spilling onto the floor.  Appraising the canned goods rendered and the mess generated in the effort, not to mention the time involved in prep, canning, and clean-up, one tries not to spend too long contemplating the notion of “return on investment.”  In a world where Holiday Market in Alturas exists, voluntary submission to these sorts of tasks requires big kid discipline and focus, as well as some help from the actual kids:

Food prep for the Local Food Challenge

Other preservation highlights this week were dried apricots and tomatoes (Clavey is preparing them above), complementing the dried cherries already in the cellar.  We have also been fermenting zucchini, beans, and cabbage in our new crock, adding quantity and variety to our winter stash.

Right now, Cedarville is buzzing with the annual Burning Man Exodus.  The quantity of prepared, hot food for sale in town is at least tenfold more than what is normally available.  And the percentage for which we on the LFX plan are eligible is, well, essentially zero. In a pinch, when a pizza sounds like manna from heaven, this feels like an inconvenience.  But the trade-off, and the accompanying motivation to prepare for winter is… umm… worth the sacrifice. Man, I wish those pizzas were local. Maybe next year.