The February harvest

Those of you playing along at home know that Kevin and I are trying to get 20% of our total caloric needs first-hand this year. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s almost twice the 11% we got last year.

This month, like last, the biggest contributor was eggs. We got even more in February than we got in January. And, although we didn’t eat them all, the point of the exercise is to see how well we’d be doing if we were to be thrown on our own resources. In which case we’d eat every last one of those eggs.

In the plant department, we got some lettuce and one rogue radish. Those calories don’t add up very quickly.

Which leaves two pecks of clams (whose calorie I think I’ve been underestimating, so I adjusted the count) and one rather scrawny rabbit – less than a pound of meat.

Which comes to:

20 dozen eggs @ 800 calories each, for 16,000
2 pecks of clams @ 1000 calories each, for 2000
1 scrawny rabbit @ 400 calories
Some lettuce leaves and a radish, call it 100 calories

That’s 18,500 for the month, about 12% of the 150,000 calories we need each month. Not 20% by a long shot, but we expect the summer and fall months to be far more productive.  February will never be a prime harvest month.

My year-to-date assessment: so far, so good.

13 people are having a conversation about “The February harvest

  1. The only reason February is a lean month is because you have not prepared. Right now I am eating frozen green beans, corn, pluots and green peppers that I put up last year. I just opened a jar of sweet cherry jam from 2010. Eating as much self-sourced food as possible is a culmulative project, rather than something that you can just jump into. I think you are doing very well, even though you are on egg overload. Now is the time to plan for next year and years after. As a gardener, my work will always pay dividends in the future. I have another year before I can let the peach tree I planted two years ago set fruit, but once it starts producing I will have not just fresh peaches, but frozen and canned for the peachless times of year.

    I hope this makes sense. I am sleep deprived right now.

    • Laura — I’m actually only counting what we harvest, not what we eat. We just finished a turkey from the freezer, and have had lots of striped bass and bluefish from the same source. We’ve had pickled green beans and cranberry preserves and frozen collards. But it’s a lot easier to track what we harvest than what we eat, so that’s the approach we’re taking.

      Now go get some sleep!

      • Beth Marcus says:

        Just think Tamar, you can be just like most of the businesses on cape cod…we don’t make money in Jan and Feb…just like you don’t gather many of your us.. you’ll be “wanting” for summer! It’s a tricky game…but you’re in good company!

  2. You’re doing so much better than I am at this. I’m getting 100% of my garlic needs taken care of at home; does that count?

    Hell- I’m still aspiring to your goal from last year- eating at least one thing grown, hunted or gathered yourselves. (Or maybe that was the year before- I forget how long I’ve been following your blog.)

    Such a long way to go.

  3. We’re doing well in winter because of our high meat diet (the Caveman Calorie effect). As per the guidelines, I am counting what I harvest, not what I eat. A recent boom in the baby bunny population means we harvested 15 in one evening. Along with game, and eggs which are coming repeat-fire out of our chickens now, I’d say we’re doing alright calorie-wise. Healthy, balanced calorie-wise not so much – just frozen fruits and pickled vegetables for those nutrients. But we’re not starving yet.

  4. You’ve inspired me to keep a running tally (on my blog) of what we’ve harvested since Jan 1. So far, so easy with maple syrup, eggs and alfalfa sprouts. It may become a bit more work to keep track over the summer, but then that’s still wishful thinking at this point. Too bad salsa from 2006 doesn’t count!

  5. Beth, that’s kinda what I was figuring. Not much happens here in February, but we all hope to be going gangbusters in August.

    Paula, Jen, and Christine — My heartfelt thanks for getting in the spirit of the thing! Paula, garlic absolutely, positively counts! And the point is definitely NOT to feel bad about what you’re NOT doing, but to take a look around for opportunities for things you could do. Things you want to do.

    Jen, you’ve got me beat by a country kilometer. Those rabbits could be your entire meat consumption for the month. I would be counting on more game this year, but I know better than to count on game.

    Christine, I’m delighted you’re playing along. Maple syrup is a big one! We don’t have maple trees, but I’m hoping that our bees will provide for some of our sweetening needs this year.

    I’m actually thinking about posting a calendar where we can all put in our harvests as they happen. Just name, place, and what you harvested. Would that be fun?

    • Sadly, I love making charts. Charts and lists. If you make a chart, I will be compelled to participate. In my world that totally counts as fun.

      Paula – my garlic harvest was exactly 0%. Rats got it all, so I’m very jealous of your harvest – in a good way of course!

  6. Counting monthly caloric harvest vs caloric intake can be very misleading over the long haul. If you harvest too much produce or too much game and don’t consume them before they spoil, they shouldn’t count. We freeze and can meats and vegetables for year round consumption to supplement what’s in season. Over the years we have put up hundreds of jars of canned produce and frozen many packages of meat that were given away or never consumed by humans. Some went to the neighbors, some to the chickens, some to the pigs and some became dog food. Nothing goes to waste, but we only count what we actually consume. Last year we achieved more than 50% homegrown intake; you can too. When you get tired of eating eggs there two options you should experiment with. Two quarts of egg nog will use a dozen eggs and it’s excellent year round. Egg Fu Yung is another change-of-pace dish that makes an excellent breakfast, lunch or dinner that’s easy to prepare. We pre-cook the veggies and sauce and keep a supply in the fridge. When you want a meal it can be put together in less than 10 minutes. If you’d like our recipes I’ll be glad to share.

  7. Steve — I’m doing it this way mostly because it’s this easiest way to get a reasonably accurate idea of how much of our food we’re getting first-hand. It would certainly be more accurate to track what we ate, but that would require daily attention and accuracy — I know I’m better off not asking that of myself.

    How did you calculate your 50%? Was that of calories?

  8. AH! There’s the trick! I read about this at Diary of a Locavore and my thoughts were thus: I wonder if one can be too deep into this for all the counting, estimating, and guesstimating to make sense. Procuring our food is so deeply woven into the fabric of our lives, and has been all our lives. The big stuff we produce might be easy – 2 deer, 30-50 meat chickens, 2 dozen meat ducks, a dozen eggs a day, a gallon or more of milk a day and all the resulting cheese, a pig, fishing or clamming once or 5 times a week depending on the season, or from the gardens 200 pounds of onions, for example. But counting up the maple syrup, honey, daily teas, all the lard, grease, gravies and stocks in daily use… I think I’ll skip this one.
    Now that I see you are counting calories harvested not consumed, I agree with above. Very misleading. We lose calories from our harvests, as most hunters and gatherers do.

    • That’s a hell of a list, Bethany. My hat’s off to you.

      As for the accuracy, of course we lose some of those calories, but I’m aiming for an estimate, not a precise accounting. It takes about ten minutes at the end of the month to add up everything we harvested and total the calories, and I get that estimate. Even with your list, it’s not a lot of work. A gallon of milk, a dozen eggs per day, plus garden and shellfish harvest. The point of it is that you don’t have to do the lard, cheese, grease, gravy, and stock because you’ve already accounted for it in the milk or the deer or the pig. But I know it’s just not interesting to a lot of people.

      The other thing is, I figure if we really did have to provide for ourselves, just about none of those calories would go to waste.

      • I think the last part of your reply is the most important, and gets to the heart of my response. For one thing, if you had to provide for yourselves, as in cut-off from the world, you wouldn’t have the grain to feed your chickens (or goats, pigs, what have you.) Most traditional farm animals don’t forage well enough to survive, and even those that do will need copious acreage and you would need some way to find them when you got hungry. In terms of providing enough carbs for your own survival, that can get tricky too. (Rabbit starvation, anyone?) Not wasting the calories you procure requires time, effort, skill, knowledge and luck. The need is felt more acutely as the amount of food you produce increases. For example, the milk we gather is made into cheese, which is a considerable investment of time and effort and takes some skill, energy and materials to produce. What if a cheese fails, in one way or another. Do we count those calories as part of our first-hand gotten cals? Well, maybe not. I’m not sure we can drink more than a gallon of milk a day. So this tally would be meaningless. The same goes for meats, eggs, seafood, veggies, fungus, sugars. If we can’t successfully preserve it and can’t consume the amount we produce fresh, we wouldn’t consider it part of our caloric needs filled. This just gets harder as you procure a greater amount and variety of food. Giant chest freezers help, and we are running two (you’re welcome, NStar.) Accidental waste is inevitable, but waste generated by laziness rather than by accident has a nasty way of sneaking into to the picture as well. This may apply more to my family with children than yours, but making sure every crumb is consumed is impossible. In our case the waste goes back into the chickens or pigs, but we still can’t consider those lost calories as a percentage of our daily caloric needs fulfilled. And then there are egg sales or trades, fish and shellfish sales and trades, and yada yada yada. The old interconnectedness thing. With these currencies in daily trade in our world, sorting out how many calories we are consuming from our harvests, versus just how many calories we can harvest, becomes an important distinction, especially in regards to claiming our calories harvested as being in any way equivalent to our calories consumed. That’s why I still have to skip this idea, unless I’m actually going to count how many calories we consume from our labor. Maybe you’ll run into this problem with your accounting when you start harvesting oysters and selling them this season.

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