Grit Blogs > Country at Heart

Our Personal Food Bank: Surviving Long, Cold, Country Winters

Arkansas GirlOur survival actually started in the Summer (when the first fruits were ripe enough to pick) and ended in late Autumn. Now, for the life of me, I can't remember which vegetables were harvested in the spring, but it seems that Grandma picked something from her garden the year round, though she may not have. It's been so long ago, that I hardly remember, so for you farmers and harvesters who know the fruits, veggies, and nuts seasons, please forgive me if I put the sweet potatoes where the collard greens are suppose to go or the pecans where the peanuts are suppose to go.

At any rate, here's the way I remember it. My Grandmother always had a garden - and a fine one at that. She was always tending her little "green babies" and bringing in a bundle or basket of something delectable from her tiny field. I ate a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, but in the winter (when we couldn't get much fresh fruit), we'd go in the back room (our personal cellar) or make a trip to Grandmother's to ravage her smokehouse. Now, you "city slickers" may not know what a smokehouse is. It's certainly not a place where one goes to smoke; rather it's that's small one-room house a few feet away from the main house that held all the "canned" preserved goods that were essential to our survival throughout winter.
 
Inside that dark room hang meats and on the shelves sat jars of every kind of fruit, vegetable or meats that had been gathered in for winter eating. Sometimes, we'd help a neighbor harvest his sweet potatoes, but normally, our winter stash came from Grandma' Smokehouse.
I could never figure out how anyone could "can" meat in a jar, but my Grandmother had jars of canned chicken and pork, and I'm sure other industrious families did too. It's also amazing that none of the food ever spoiled. As a child, I was just sure that as long as those jars had sat on those shelves that surely the food would be rotten when we opened them, but surprise! It wasn't, and the best part is that everything we opened ended up making a delicious addition to whatever else we had on the menu.
 
So, no matter what season we were in, we always had something "fresh" to eat. In the spring and summer, we ate fresh berries, plums, pomegranates, peaches, squash, and cucumbers. In autumn, we picked apples and pears straight from the vine. In winter, we ate from jars or had imported foods such as oranges, lemons, bananas, and exotic nuts.
 
But most of all, it was Grandma's Smokehouse from which we received our most delicious food treats. Thanks again, Grandma!
nebraska dave
2/19/2013 3:22:10 AM

Arkansas Girl, every farm garden in Nebraska had a patch of asparagus and a patch of rhubarb. They were usually the first things harvested from the spring garden. They were perennial and just came up every spring. Even today uninhabited farm houses will have a patch of asparagus and rhubarb growing near by. Almost every farm had an orchard near the house and those might be in neglect but still trying to produce after the house has long been empty. Here in Nebraska a smoke house just wouldn't work as it gets too cold for the canned jars and would freeze solid and break. We would build what we called cellars. It was originally built by digging a hole about eight feet down in the ground. Then brick walls were built which later was replaced by concrete walls. A solid cover would then be covered back up by a thick layer of dirt. A slating door would cover the steps down into the dark and moist cellar where shelves filled with jars full of the summer's harvest rested. These cellars would second as a place of refuge during bad storms when tornado activity was suspected. I've spent many hours huddled in a cellar around a flickering kerosine lantern listening to the wind howl above us. Have a great smoke house memory day.