Monday, May 27, 2013

PART 2: The Daily Pantagraph's Article on Vicky Shaffer in 1984:

*Originally written by Betty Zimmerman for The Daily Pantagraph (now The Pantagraph) for their Wednesday, September 12th, 1984 Focus section.  This article is reprinted with permission from The Pantagraph-complete with photos (taken by Marc Featherly).*
Vicky Shaffer showed shelves full of vegetables and fruits that she has canned.

Earth's Bounty Stocks their Pantry 

(Continued from yesterday)

By: Betty Zimmerman

The Shaffers have 190 bags of corn in the freezer, along with other vegetables and fruits.  Vicky also has canned dozens of jars of vegetables, chili and spaghetti sauce and pickles.  Along with those, bright jewel-colored jars of fruits, jams and jellies stand on shelves in the basement of their home.

Vicky curtains the shelves on which she stores home-canned foods to protect the foods from light, which she says takes the color and nutrition from them.

The Shaffers also have a food dehydrator in which Vicky dries bananas, apples, corn, cabbage, green peppers, beets, peaches and strawberries.

"We really like the dried foods," she says.  And the process helps conserve space.  One good-size head of cabbage dehydrates to not quite a quart of dried.  She uses the vegetables in soups, stews and casseroles.

"I tried to dry food outside (without dehydrator), but there's just too much humidity in Illinois weather."

Holding jars of dehydrated pepper and cabbage

Vicky also stores some foods just as they come from the garden.  "Winter squash will keep indefinitely in a cool, dry place," she says, "as long as it still has a stem.  If the stem is broken off, then it should be used."

And she hangs potatoes and onions in mesh bags from the basement ceiling.

Besides experimenting with various ways of preserving foods, Vicky likes to try something new in the garden every year.  This year it was eggplant and kohlrabi.

"I didn't know how to cook kohlrabi, but one day we had some company here from Chicago.  So I put some kohlrabi through the food processor, then boiled it.  It smells terrible!"

"You can always add butter and some Velveeta cheese and I had some cream. ... Everybody loved it.  They just couldn't get enough of it.  Carmen had four helpings.

"Finally I said, 'Do you know what that is?  It's kohlrabi.'  They said, 'Oh well, it's good anyway.'"

Vicky keeps a log of everything she plants each year, so she can harvest and can accordingly to the amount the family consumes in various foods.

She usually plants two dozen cabbage, but decided to plant just eight this year.  "When I end up with a 17-pound one, though, I'm not much ahead."

She also keeps records of her garden layouts so she can plan them efficiently.  The Shaffers have several garden plots, two near the house with vegetables Vicky uses more frequently and which take more care and another big garden across the pond for vegetables such as corn and potatoes.

She plants seedlings such as cabbage, eggplant and tomatoes in bottomless plastic planter pots to protect the plants from wind and cutworms.  When she waters them, she just fills the pot with water and lets it seep down to the roots.

"In the fall I just pull the pots off and stack them together to store for next year."

She plants radishes "even if I don't always want the radishes" because, she says, the bugs and worms like the leaves.

"The same with broccoli.  Let it go to seed after harvesting it.  The bugs will eat the leaves of that and not the other things.  I do that because I don't like to use any kind of powders to get rid of the bugs.

Beside vegetables, they have young raspberry plants, grapevines and fruit trees-apple, peach, pear, apricot, plum and cherry-all getting ready to bear in the next couple of years.  They already are harvesting apples, plums and pears.

near the house gardens there's a new elevated patch of strawberries that Shaffer [Monty] has augmented with extra sand hauled in for the children's sandbox.  They've had to work with all the ground, adding sand and compost and manure each year.

A small tractor and a row tiller help with the heavier garden work, and the Shaffers' love for what they're doing carries them through the rest.

"In the spring when you're putting out the big gardens, it's not work," Vicky says, "you're so enthusiastic about doing it and it's fun.  If you had to do the same thing in the fall, you'd think uhhh!"

The couple buy beef and pork to stock their freezers and the farm pond Shaffer [Monty] dug before they moved in has been stocked with bass, sunfish, catfish and crappie.

"We eat fish all spring," he says.  "And we also fish through the ice in the winter."

During the winter the Shaffer house is heated with wood they have cut.  "We have an oil furnace to back that up," says Vicky.

Their do-it-yourself attitude carries over into other things, too.  Vicky is happy with a snack bar recipe she made up in answer to her son's request for granola bars such as he'd seen on television.

She adds peanut butter, chocolate chips and rolled oats to the basic Rice Krispie treat recipe.  "We really like them," she says.  "And I cut them the same size as the granola bars, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and send them to school with Nick in his lunch box.

"He's just as happy as if they were the ones he saw on TV. ... No way was I going to pay a dollar and a half for six to eight of them."

The Shaffers' effort pays off for them in satisfaction and a lifestyle in which they avoid a dependence on commercially processed foods.

"We're showing our kids that it can be done and there are alternatives to going to the store," says Vicky.  "And we feel physically more healthy for it, with the exercise and the food we eat."

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