It’s January 1, and you know what that means. Join the gym, sign up for French lessons, and add up the calories you harvested in 2012.
Last year, at about this time, I added up the calories Kevin and I had harvested in 2011, and came to the sobering realization that, after all that work, we could account for only 11% of our caloric intake with food we got first-hand. I double-checked the math and gave Kevin the news.
“Well, that sucks,” he said.
Which about summed it up. Surely, I though, we could do better. So, for 2012, we set the goal of getting 20.12% of our calories from food we hunt or fish, gather or grow. As of October, we were just a little behind – but we knew November would be big.
And it was. We harvested six turkeys and three pigs (although only one of the pigs was for us). The turkeys averaged about twelve pounds (after processing), which would makes them about 7500 calories each (including the liver, which Kevin turned into pate).
Our pig, Spot, was about 280 pounds at slaughter, and roughly half of that is commercial cuts of pork. Subtract the bone and waste from the cuts, but add in the organs (liver, heart, and kidneys), and I’m estimating that we had 130 pounds of meat and fat. Assuming the meat:fat ratio in ground pork is similar to that of a whole pig, I’ll say each pound of pork had 1200 calories, for a total of 156,000.
Our only other contributors for November and December were oysters, clams, and eggs:
200 oysters = 2000
6 cups chopped clams @200 = 1200
4 dozen eggs @800 = 3200
Six turkeys @7500 = 45000
One pig = 156,000
That’s 207,400 for the two months, combined. Add it to our previous months and our grand total of calories harvested for 2012 is 506,600. Which comes to … drumroll, please … 28% of our calories for the year.
When I did the math, my first thought was, “Whew, at least it’s over 20%.” My second thought was, “Damn, we eat a lot!” My third thought (and then I’ll stop) was, “Not many vegetables …”
And it’s that third thought that is the real lesson for us here. Look at our year’s harvest (rounded to the nearest thousand), and there’s not much in the way of plants:
Animals: 202 (One pig, six turkeys, one duck, one rabbit, one raccoon)
Fish: 117 (400 pounds of mostly bluefish and striped bass, lots of clams and oysters)
Plants: 33 (vegetables, fruit, and acorns)
A mere 6.5% of our take was plants. Okay, we had a bad year in the garden – our attention was diverted to our livestock – but I can’t imagine that vegetable number going up by an order of magnitude. In a good year, we could certainly double it. We could probably even triple it. But it’s still not going to come anywhere near what we can harvest in animals, wild and domestic.
Part of this is our circumstances. We have crappy soil, and very little sunlight. Each year, we try and improve things – with amendment and chainsaw, respectively – but we’ll never have a flat, sunny, fertile half-acre on which to grow food. Part of this is our experience. Each year, we have some successes (figs!) and failures (eight pounds of potatoes from ten pounds of seed – but it was the turkeys’ fault), and we’re still trying to figure out what will grow here, and how to make it grow. Part of it, though, is inherent. Eggs and meat and honey are calorie-dense, and it’s just plain easier to feed yourself animal products.
And so it was animal products, many and varied, that brought us up to our goal of harvesting 20.12% of our calories in 2012. Now that it’s 2013, we need a new goal, and harvesting 20.13% seems a little lame.
Lots of you out there grow, hunt, fish, and forage your own food. How did you do in 2012? And, more importantly, do you have goals for 2013? Specifically, do you have a goal I can shamelessly appropriate, given that I haven’t come up with one of my own?
Think about that, will you? And, in the meantime, Happy New Year. I hope 2013 brings you joy, satisfaction, and lots of good things to eat.