In a once and future day, I had a garden worthy of canning. At nearly 10,000 feet elevation and with perhaps at best four frost free weeks per year, I hope my current excuse is legitimate.
At times, of course, I miss it: the early morning calls to the garden to inspect the ever changing challenges and rewards, the extra hours in the evenings pulling weeds and picking at the edge of ripeness, putting up in jars and drying racks…
I believe the soil becomes a part of you. It binds you to the land. Here and now, I can leave for days during our summer and ride up to ditch camp to work without fear of the garden missing me. There is little garden to care for. There is little to do. Even few weeds will grow here. Time for other things, though for those of us with black gold in our veins, gardening is always time well spent. A time gone but not forgotten.
Stocking up for winter here is no less important, though very different from my gardening days. More vital, at times, with a road that will close in a month or two at the latest, leaving us somewhat closed off, blocked off and inaccessible until late spring when the county sends the dozer to break through the snow banks en route to our ranch.
Folks often ask us how we manage to supply ourselves adequately to make it through the long winter. I remind them we are not completely isolated. We do have snowmobiles and skis. In fact, riding along the packed trail or zipping across the frozen surface of the Rio Grande Reservoir on snowmobile is far more comfortable than taking a pickup along the rutted and ripped up track we call a road during the summer.
So, during the winter season, a 6 ½ mile sled ride brings us to our pickup truck, which brings us in an hour of so from there to town. Providing the road is plowed. Otherwise, stay home and wait out the storm.
But we do stock up. Obviously, we need to. A trip to the grocery store in winter is an event, usually spanning two days to get it all done. The list gets long. Talking tends to take up more time than anything when you finally get to town.
What do we keep on hand? The basics. A full freezer of meats, pantry of canned goods, fresh lettuce growing in the south window. And baking goods. Plenty of baking goods. Sugar, chocolate chips, yeast, salt… and flour. Usually I go through about 150 pounds of flour a year. That’s a lot of bread and cookies. For winter, I usually store about 4 25-pound bags of all purpose flour, and we just squeeze by.
You have to be organized. Keep track of what you have, keep lists of what you need, know how much you tend to use. That kind of thing. Get used to doing without or making do. And if you have an abundance, learn to use it. Waste nothing.
In my attempt to avoid a town trip and shopping spree to stock up this fall, I sent my boys. But alas, I did not send a list. Just general instructions to “stock up”…
What they came home with was twelve 25-pound bags of flour. That’s a lot of flour. Nice of them to make sure we would not run out. Though finding a place to store it all is not a simple matter.
Ah, think of all the baking I get to do this winter. Just when I was wondering what my purpose in life was. The answer came to me in 25-pound bags.
At least for now, that will do.
Posted by: highmountainmuse