10 ways to be self sufficient in winter
The garden is closed for the winter, but it doesn't mean that you can't be self-sufficient in some way. Winter is a good time to practice or learn new (or old, depending on your perspective) homesteading skills. And if you miss your garden too much, there's a couple of things you can grow inside.
1. Grow sprouts and microgreens
I've been growing sprouts for a couple of years now. It's really easy and it' fun to have something this fresh in the middle of the cold months. I use a sprouting tray tower to germinate alfalfa, broccoli, mung beans, peas, beans, lentils, etc... We eat sprouts in our sandwiches, in our salads, in veggie wraps or on hummus/avocado toasts.
But this year, since we've got a growing set up with growing lights, I'm jumping into microgreens. I bought seeds from Mumm's Sprouting Seeds : green peas, curly cress, a broccoli brassicas blend, brown mustard, alfalfa and a sandwich booster that contains alfalfa, clover, radish and mustard seeds. Other than that, you just need some trays and dirt and you're ready to grow microgreens.
2. Make an indoor herb garden
I love anything that grows, but I LOVE growing herbs! If you have never grown herbs before, I encourage you to start right now. Growing herbs is EASY. You basically just need a window and your basics : containers, potting soil and seeds.
One thing I learned about growing herbs is that the more you harvest them the more they grows. Also, don't hesitate to fertilise your herbs often (every 2 weeks) with a diluted nitrogen fertiliser. I use an organic fertiliser made from algae and diluted in water.
3. Bake fresh bread
Those who follow me know that I've been baking my own bread for the past year. I now have a lot of experience with white bread, whole wheat bread and even sourdough bread. But I have yet to try baking pita, flat breads and tortillas. And we eat a lot of those!...
If I'm being honest, I didn't try baking any of those because I know that when I start making them myself, I will feel guilty if I need to buy some at the store. I've been avoiding that guilt, but it's now time for me to get the rolling pin out and learn to roll some tortillas.
4. Ferment vegetables
Cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, radishes, peppers...you can ferment any vegetable with the right amount of salt and water. Fermentation is a great way to preserve your abundance of vegetables during winter. They keep well in the fridge or in the root cellar for months and months. Winter is also a great time to ferment vegetables in general because the temperature is colder in the house, witch is beneficial for good fermentation.
Fermented foods are also known for their probiotic properties. Healthy guts are important for our general health. We like to eat fermented food as a side dish or condiment on a regular basis. Personally, I've been making kimchi (Korean spicy cabbage), sauerkraut (German sour cabbage) and jardiniera (Italian mixed crunchy vegetables) often in the past couple of years. I don't have any fancy equipment to make my ferments; I just use regular Mason jars. Here's Brad Leone's saurkraut recipe which is our FAV.
5. Make vegetable broth
Anybody can be self-sufficient in vegetable broth. You can make it from whole vegetables and herbs or you can make your stock from vegetable scraps. Yes! Just freeze your veggie peels in a ziplock bag and store them in the freezer until you have enough scraps to make a batch of broth.
To make the broth, put your vegetables (or vegetable scraps) in a stock pot. Add garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, herbs of your choice. Add water following a 1:1 ratio, meaning your vegetables should be covered with a couple inches of water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and let simmer for 6 to 8 hours. This can be cooked overnight in a crockpot.
Once your broth is done, strain the liquid. To preserve your broth, you can freeze it in muffin tins to make portions or you can pressure can them if you have a pressure cooker and some Mason jars. Remember that you need to fill your jars with boiling stock if you want to use the pressure canning method.
If you're anything like me and you don't like wasting anything, you can blend your cooked vegetables and pour the mixture into ice trays. You'll have vegetable concentrate in your freezer that you can use to add flavor to your gravies, soups or stews. You can also freeze the cooked vegetables and use them in soups. Nothing is wasted.
6. Make my own immune boosting syrup
Writing this, I'm thinking about elderberry syrup because it is what I will make, but there are tons of different immune boosting syrup recipes out there. Nature provides you all the ingredients you need to boost your immune system before and during winter. If we take elderberry syrup, for example, elderberries are packed with antioxidants. The other ingredients found in elderberry syrup recipes are also very beneficial to our health : ginger, honey, cinnamon and cloves.
I'm going to follow Shaye Elliott's recipe, from The Elliott Homestead. She also suggest adding ''On Guard'' from doTERRA to your syrup. I asked my friend Gen about On Guard. She says it's a blend of essential oils which have a positive effect on the immune system. To know more about this product, it's beneficial properties and how to buy it, you can visit my friend Geneviève's Facebook page. Gen communicates both in french and in english and she will be able to give you more information about On Guard and how you should use it.
7. Knit dishcloths
Last year, I learned how to knit. It's quite easy once you get the hang of it. So I practiced and everybody got something knitted for Christmas. But guess what? I didn't even knit anything for myself!
Isn't it always like that?!
This winter, I want to knit some dishcloths for my kitchen. Those dishcloths last forever!! As I mentioned before, I also want to learn to crochet. Maybe I can combine both techniques and make myself a unique piece of clothing, like a poncho or a vest, for next spring...
8. Sew produce bags or a harvest apron
If you want to learn how to sow of if you know how to sow, but don't have time for big sewing projects, why not do just a simple project like making produce bags for your bulk shopping. It'll take you less than an hour. And while your machine is out you could make a couple more bags to give as gifts.
I want to make some flour and grain bags out of natural cotton or linen and use fabric paint to transfer old printing designs on them. I also want to make myself a harvest apron for next summer. That project will require a little bit more time and a lot more steps, but it will be very useful to harvest cherry tomatoes and cucumbers in the garden.
9. Make a basket
Did you know that you can make a basket out of basically any natural material you can find out there? You can use willow branches, cattail sticks, straw, vines, even pine needles!
10. Can some pints of beans
You can save a lot of money by canning your own beans. A bag of dried beans is selling for less than 3.00$ which will give you 9 pints of canned beans. One can of beans is selling for about 1.00$. So if you do the math, you can save 6.00$ right there. And if you have grown your own beans, well then, you have free beans!
We follow a plant-based diet, meaning we get all our food intakes from plants. You can imagine that we eat quite a lot of legumes every week. Therefore, it's really worth the effort to can our own beans. In my pantry, I usually have 9 pints of each : red kidney beans, black beans and chickpeas. I can beans on a regular basis.
There are PLENTY MORE ways to be self-sufficient during winter, but those are the main 10 things I'm going to do. What about you? Let me know what you are planning on doing to be more self-sufficient this winter. I'm sure you can find ways to do a lot with what you have. And if you need help figuring out solutions for your small space, reach out to me!
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