As the days shorten, the weather turns cooler and the trees turn colour and shed their leaves, I find myself preparing for winter by laying in supplies of food and fuel.
The produce I am able to collect from the garden changes from mainly pulses and fresh leaves for salads to more of the earthy roots like carrots, swede and beetroots. There is a new crop of berries to forage for – blackberries, sloes, elderberries – and the grapevines are laden too although I have found no way to preserve grapes other than making wine at which I have not been very successful! This year we have had an unusually large amount of rain so the blackberries and autumn raspberries have been disappointing despite the promise of a bumper crop earlier. For the last few weeks they have gone mushy and mouldy as soon as they have ripened. Luckily there are some left from last year as well as the early pickings so I should get by.
One of the disadvantages of living at the bottom of the valley is that there is a steep hill to negotiate whichever way I turn out of the drive and in ice or snow these become impassable for any car without 4 wheel drive. I can walk to the veg shed at C&M organics but having climbed out of my valley I then have to go down another steep hill into theirs! To do so in bad weather and carry much back would be quite a challenge!
Luckily John and Jean, who live a short drive away, organise a buying co-op with Suma, the organic wholesalers. Every couple of months they give us a date for delivery and we each order what we need. The whole lot is delivered to them by lorry just as if they were a shop. They check and sort it then email us to say we can collect it. By buying in wholesale quantities I am able to keep good stocks of all the basics – some in old sweet jars which a shop in Cardigan gives away when empty, asking only a donation in the charity box, and some in an old fridge / freezer which protects it all from rodents.
Together with what I have frozen or bottled, my jams, chutneys and relishes plus what is in the garden I aim to be able to last at least 3 weeks without needing to go out, as that is the longest I have been stuck so far. It is a very different way of life from being within walking distance of a big supermarket which is open every day except Christmas Day but now I am used to it it is easy – just copy the squirrels!