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  • Pamela Hatheway

In the last month or so, my dehydrators have been running almost around the clock. It has been harvest time in New Brunswick, and I make a point of buying my food mainly from local sources. I was telling some of my friends at work about my dehydrating habit, and they just couldn’t seem to figure out why I would do such a thing. Apples are going to be available in the grocery store year round, it’s not like they are going to disappear. That’s true. I don’t live in a place that is a food desert. I have a car, and I have money, so why would I dehydrate?

1. Decreased food waste- This morning I was cleaning out my refrigerator, and noticed that the bag of carrots that I bought for Thanksgiving a month ago (I live in Canada, our Thanksgiving is early October) were starting to get a little limp, they just were not going to last long. Now even if I threw out that bag of carrots, how much money would I waste? Maybe a couple of dollars? The thing is a couple of dollars every few days adds up quickly. By dehydrating those carrots, I was able to extend the usefulness for several months or even years.

2. Take advantage of supermarket specials- I shop at local independent grocery stores, who bring in food grown by local farmers. Last week, there were huge bags of button mushrooms that were marked down to far less than half of what they normally are sold for. As a single woman, it wouldn’t make sense for me to buy this huge amount of mushrooms, but I did. I spent ten dollars, and have enough dehydrated mushrooms to add to my food storage that I won’t have to buy mushrooms for at least a year.

3. Adds variety- I could easily fall into a food rut, buying groceries and preparing food for one. I look at my dehydrated food cabinet, and realize that I have all sorts of options to put into my soups, stews, sauces and casseroles. I have onions, peppers, mushrooms, celery, carrots, peas and rutabagas that can be tossed into dishes, when they are rehydrated through cooking you would never know they didn’t come fresh out of my refrigerator. I also have apples, blueberries and cranberries that can be mixed into a muffin or waffle recipe or even cooked in oatmeal with a little cinnamon, when the grandkids come for a sleep-over. Having dried foods on hand gives me so many options for my meals at a very little cost.

4. Gives me a sense of control- Four or five years ago, because of a hurricane, we were out of power for over a week, then there were lock-downs due to covid. Both situations left many people feeling food insecure. I was not one of those people. I knew that I could survive for quite a while on the food that I had stored. Right now, there is much talk about poor global harvests, inflation and supply chain problems. Having lots of food in the larder gives me confidence that whatever comes, my family and I are looked after.

5. Assurance of quality of foods- Buying local is a passion of mine. I really believe that we need to be supporting the local economy. Buying food that is in season is a way to do that. I pick enough strawberries at the local U-pick so I don’t have to buy strawberries for the rest of the year. They are made into jam, frozen for smoothies and dehydrated to add to granola, cereals or desserts. The same thing goes for corn, and tomatoes. This doesn’t mean that I don’t ever buy a fresh tomato for a salad or sandwich in the winter, I do, but I don’t have to.

People ask about the loss of nutritional value in dried foods, and although there is a bit, (5-7% vitamin loss) it is far less than canned food. I buy most of my produce directly from the farmers, usually within hours of it being picked, so it is nutrient dense to begin with.

6. Saves space- I love to open my refrigerator and find empty space. It is easier to maintain, and certainly easier to know what I have, and less food goes to waste. Dried food outlasts frozen and it leaves me freezer space for things that will be used up more quickly.

7. Jars of preserved food are just pretty- I will just admit it, food in jars, is one of my favourite things. It makes me feel prepared, it gives me a sense of control and a sense of pride. What is not to like about shelves of colourful dried fruits, veggies, beans and cereals, all begging to become part of a wholesome nurturing meal.

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  • Pamela Hatheway

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

Oscar Wilde

As we travel into midlife, many of us tend to carry a lot of baggage with us. We bring negative self-talk and self-doubt, in spite of a lifetime of successes. We have an inexplicable need to apologize for things that don’t require apologies. We bring with us a trunk full of bad habits that self-sabotage our personal happiness and success.

Why do we do this? Why can we not be more gentle with ourselves? Why don’t we do those things that will bring us the most joy? Why do we habitually put off tasks and create stress for ourselves?

I have been thinking about how the decisions of today affect the future me, just like the decisions of yesterday affect who I am today. Did I spend money on something that was not needed, leaving myself short and stressed? Did I eat a healthy diet, to ensure energy and health? Did I exercise to ensure a strong fit body? Did I make sure there was gas in the car, milk in the refrigerator so I wouldn’t need to go out in the morning?

We need to give our future selves gifts, we need to romance her, be thoughtful, make her life easier, not create more obstacles to her day than are already there.

Last night I cleaned the kitchen and put out fresh linens , so I would wake up to a lovely clean-smelling home. I had the sewing machine out for another project, so I made a few lavender sachets that I put in my drawers and linen closet, because the scent of lavender or freshly ironed pillowcases is one of my favourite things. I pressed a pair of pants last night, so I wouldn’t be scrambling this morning. Instead of thinking about these daily tasks that have to be done, think of them as gifts to a future you.

I will be honest, I have been complaining about the state of my basement for months now. I have books on shelves that I haven’t cracked open since the 90’s. I have boxes and bins of things that I have no room for, but I keep telling myself the stuff in them is too good to part with. I have come to a conclusion, the clean room will bring me far more joy than the stuff that is cluttering the space. I deserve that joy.

If I had a partner, the best gift they could give me right now, help me clean out that space. Since I don’t have a partner, and I live by myself, the best thing I can do for myself is exactly the same thing.

I was almost to the front of the grocery store line when I realized I needed to buy flowers for a friend. That friend was me.

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  • Pamela Hatheway

Updated: Nov 8, 2021

"And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be

are full of trees and changing leaves..."

Virginia Woolf

When I come into my sweet little cottage after a long work day, it is like stepping back in time. Things are simple here. I leave the sounds of the radio in the car, and the business of the day at the door. I am greeted by my cat Charlotte, and my pug, Molly.

My workday evenings are simple. I used to work into the night, bringing home lots of marking and planning. I have learned to let work stay at work, and my home be a space delegated to personal rejuvenation and family time.

Although the weather is unseasonably warm, I know that the cold and snow will be here soon enough. I need to spend time in my yard, putting away lawn furniture and flower baskets. This weekend, I will build some cages to go around my planted fruit trees to keep the deer from devouring them over the winter months. This weekend, I will clean out the rain gutters plugged with fallen leaves, pull winter shovels and the snowblower to an accessible part of the barn, and, perhaps, plant a few flower bulbs, as a gift to myself to mark the early days of spring.

The last few weekends I have been putting up food. The harvest is in, and the farm stands are bursting at the seams. I still have a tendency to buy for a whole family when in reality it is only me and occasional guests. Sometimes the deals are too much to pass up. Honey Crisp apples were on sale at the market for 6.99 for a 10 lb bag. I bought two bags, I saved a few to eat fresh but I peeled and sliced the majority for the dehydrator. Dried apples are a healthy snack on their own. I will use them as an addition to muffins, waffles and cooked cereal or homemade granola.

With very little work, I was able to dry three litres of apples. I followed the apples with Vidalia onions and local peppers and a couple heads of cabbage.

The thing with drying or canning food, is that there are always lots of options in the larder and I can take advantage of grocery store sales and markdowns. With fewer trips to the grocery store, I can make a soup or stew that is chock full of nutrition and colour and flavour. I have a huge variety at my fingertips with very little waste.

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