|Written by Margaret Foley|
|Tuesday, July 05, 2011|
An expert householder's bountiful garden
Each spring, Harriet Fasenfest inventories her preserves to determine what to make again. “If something wasn’t eaten, I make something different,” she says. “This year, yellow jams weren’t a hit with my family, and some experiments, such as nectarine chutney, I won’t make again, but experimenting is part of the process.”
Fasenfest, the author of A Householder’s Guide to the Universe, transformed her Northeast Portland backyard into a producing garden over seven years ago. She had her “aha” moment when she wondered why she let her pears just fall to the ground. “I was in despair over the global economy, and I knew there had to be other ways to do things,” she says. “When the pear dropped, I thought, why don’t I put that up?” After learning how to can, Fasenfest began to research and develop her own theories about how to use food.
For Fasenfest, producing and sourcing your own food is a resource management system, or what she calls householding. “I’m a preservation gardener,” she says. “I grow with an eye toward canning and storing. What I don’t grow, I provision. I buy meat from a farmer, and I buy in bulk to create my own stores.” In her home, freezers hold fruit, cuts of meat and homemade sausage. Containers store grains, nuts and beans. The refrigerator’s condiment shelf supplies homemade ketchup and relishes.
Successful householding requires preparation, and Fasenfest has learned how to use her space and what she produces. “While I do grow greens, I have more than three beds devoted to onions, and I grow a lot of garlic and carrots,” she says. “Those store well through the winter, and if you have those three things, it’s easy to make a meal.”
While not everyone can garden at this level, Fasenfest, who also does consultations, stresses that planning is important in using provisions. “You need to have a plan,” she says. “If I make applesauce and don’t use it, I’ve wasted the effort. But, if I eat it as a dessert or use it in a cake, it becomes a food resource.”