• Laurie Blake

The Evolution of my Food Preservation and Home Garden

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Way back in 1996, we were living in an apartment, and I was desperate to save money while feeding my family real food. I learned that Calgary Heritage Park held an annual event in

October to sell fruits and vegetables at old-time prices. The event was massive, and I filled a car and the trunk twice over the weekend. I spent around $200. Freezing what I could then learn how to can the rest. My haul lasted us the winter.

In 1997 I did some research and discovered a thing called Community Supported Agriculture CSA. I rented a small plot from a CSA trying my hand at vegetable gardening. That year I also took advantage of the Heritage Park Event and local farmers' markets.

The following year I didn't do the garden plot as it was difficult for me to get to, and we had moved to a townhouse with a sunny kitchen window. I went to IKEA and bought a wood shelf which I built into a horseshoe shape. I purchased some grow lights to supplement the light from the window. I grew vegetables in food-grade plastic containers, which fitted nicely on the shelf.

Several years later, I wanted to expand my growing capacity further, so I dug up my backyard for vegetable production. A couple of years after that, I dug up the front yard. I had the bug.

David and I got together back in 2008. We joined a Community Supported Agriculture Farm Share CSA with organic fruit and vegetables. Pick-ups were close to us on Wednesday evenings throughout the growing season. With a CSA farm share, you get a percentage of the harvest, however, bare the risk and reward of the growing season. We did the farmers' markets and the Heritage Park event and learned about food dehydration and bought a food dehydrator.

We wanted to start growing our food again; however, were beginning backyard renovations. We started a reasonably sizable container garden, which we moved around as David was working.

From there, we bought our greenhouse second hand still in the box from Kijiji. We measured our space and dug down and replace the clay with organic soil and horse poop.

For the garden beds, you don't want to use any wood with chemicals in it like pressure-treated unless you line it with something safe. Cedar has natural oils that reduce rot but will leach. We used kiln-dried spruce, which will rot but won't leach into our food.

We let the CSA farm share go, however, it continued with the farmers' markets and Heritage Park. David bought me a second dehydrator because he missed me in the fall.

We had a 12 x 12 garage in a bag with holes in the covering. David laid some old concrete slabs, built me boxes, and covered the shed with poly. He even made two windows and a door. To save time with our now fairly massive garden, David installed a zoned self-watering system with a water filter attached. I had soaker hoses running through both greenhouses and the raised beds, all on timers.

By this time, David and I had already decided that we wanted to travel in our RV full-time, so I started dehydrating our crops and making vegetable powder. If you dry your food at a low temperature, it will still be live food. The dehydrated food can last six months on the counter, three years in the fridge, and ten years in the freezer. I started dehydrating to reduce our food costs on the road.

Three years ago, at the end of the season, we sold and gave away our raised beds as we were planning on levelling the backyard.

The following year we closed up the garage in a bag greenhouse and sold the remaining boxes and the frame.

Here we are once again increasing our growing capacity with food-grade pails. I think what my food preservation and growing journey shows are that you can preserve and grow your food to whatever extent suits your life at the moment.

As a side note, any structure we build becomes our fort in the winter.

For the next gardening posts, I'm going to go through what I've learned for the plants we have in our garden.

Please subscribe and share with your friends so we can play in the dirt together.

I'll send you a note when I publish follow up posts.

Until next time take care and live well.

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