Vela Creations is an in-depth resource for off grid living. The site documents our research and experiences, hoping that they might help others interested in pursuing this lifestyle. This blog is designed to document our day to day experiences as we build our new, sustainable homestead. If you are interested in seeing more photos and videos, we have a flickr account at the following url:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Solar Food Dehydrator and food preservation

SANY6171 This week, Abe made us a solar food dehydrator, an essential component of any self-sufficient homestead. It has a see-through top and front, metal sides, and space for 4 trays, 4 feet by 2 feet each. It has screened air vents at the top and bottom so that hot air rises up through the produce, pulling out the humid air and thus speeding up the drying time. It is great. We got a couple of hundred apples from a neighbor the other day, so it has already paid for itself. We can dry 40 apples at a time in two partially cloudy days. For photos of the dryer being made, click here.

Anyone that has a garden knows that when something is producing well, you have way more than you need or want. For example, the first squash of the season are so exciting and so tasty, but after eating squash every meal, every day, you're almost happy to see the plant dry up.

The key with this imbalance of food is to preserve it in some manner or other, so that you can eat it during winter. There are several ways to do this, each with their own advantages.

Drying is my favorite, as it conserves a lot of the original nutrition and taste, and I consider it safer than canning (which might just be that I'm fairly new to canning and am a little afraid that I won't do it right and will end up poisoning my family!). You can then store the dried produce in cans, bags, containers, whatever. They don't take up much space and will last a long time (provided that you dried them properly). We use the dried fruit as snacks, eaten as is. Vegetables can be rehydrated in soups or eaten like chips. It is truly amazing what you can dry, and how well the flavor is preserved.

SANY6206We can some things. Canning keeps the moist quality of your produce. For example, we pickled and canned some cucumbers a couple of weeks ago. They are delicious, and everything, including the dill, came from our homestead.

We don't have a freezer yet, so not an option for us, although we would probably only freeze meat, and only for a short amount of time.

SANY6181Another great way to have fresh food in winter is to grow things that naturally last, like winter squash. I still have one winter squash left over from last year! We have now collected the first of our pumpkins.

We are still slowly building up our homestead, and each year we increase our systems. We look forward to having the pantry ready for next year and being able to fill it in the main growing season.

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