Larder: noun

1. a room or place where food is kept; pantry.

2. supply of food.

I suspicion the word itself originated from the place where the pails of hand-rendered lard were stored. Lard was, for many hundreds of years and even on the farm in my childhood, the principal cooking oil. And it’s still the best.

It seems more people grew and/or expanded their gardens this year.

Raised garden beds sprang up like dandelions as people who hadn’t, heretofore, grown a carrot, as people decided it might be the better part of caution to grow some food in their back yard, maybe get some chickens for fresh eggs, maybe prune and spray those old apple trees down back.

It’s the way of true Mainers and the transplants that move here for the right reasons, who recognize and appreciate the down t’home ways of the “natives.” When times get tough, they roll up their sleeves and set about doing what can be done, figuring out how to end-run draconian edicts and provide for their families against the consequences of those who are running amok with their new-found, though largely illegal power.

Now, as we are staring at what may well be a rough winter, wondering if we will be able to keep, what with skyrocketing costs, the furnace going, the propane tanks full, put gas in our cars to get to work or to put decent meals on the table — even if we’re allowed to keep our jobs.

What are people to do? How can they decide when the rules are made, then changed, then remade, then advised to change course again? It’s Russian roulette, except they hold the gun. People that are resisting getting the jab don’t want to lose their jobs, their livelihoods and careers. How are they going to pay their bills? They don’t make their decisions lightly.

So many have grown their gardens and now are harvesting the carrots, potatoes, squash, chard, Brussels sprouts. They gather eggs. Some are now raising rabbits and quail for meat — and quail eggs. With the skyrocketing cost of groceries, all but pushing meat off the menu, more people got hunting licenses and have procured a freezer in hopes of filling it with meat.

Shining glass jars of red tomatoes, green beans and pickles, etc., will soon be joined with end-of-harvest foods. Pumpkins and squash, carrots and potatoes and apples line up in barrels and on shelves. There are even ways, as hens slow down laying to a standstill, to put up eggs for the winter. They can be pickled, for example, or put down jars or crocks in the shell in a flaked lime solution that will keep them fine for up to two years. After all, refrigeration hasn’t been around that long, but people knew how to preserve their foods. (YouTube is afloat with the old ways of preserving foods, including eggs.)

Up on the farm all those decades ago, we always had a year’s worth of food on hand. As the seasons rolled around, there were the vegetable gardens, the apple orchards, the berry bushes, the laying hens, fish from the waters, game from the woods and fresh milk (and butter) from the barn. Fall was butchering the pork and beef and preserving the cuts (we had a big barrel of salted pork in the cellar every winter), and making bacon and sausage. And getting your deer.

For those of us that cannot grow and can and preserve, we can still stockpile. I’ve always had a few weeks of foods on hand “in case.” I started out with just buying two or three extra cans or jars of things I normally eat, things that don’t require refrigeration — dry goods, cans, boxes and jars — and tuck them away for a rainy day. Let’s just say that I have enough maple syrup, flour, canned spinach (the only vegetable that retains its nutrition whether fresh, frozen or canned), peanut butter, crackers, broth, tuna and Spam and such for a spell. I also always have a few jugs of spring water and extra lamp oil on the cellar steps.

And in Maine, power outages are not unexpected but this year, with all the rumors flying around of deliberate “dark days” without power, it might be the better part of caution to explore some of the old ways of putting up foods to fill our larders.

Each and every day, I thank the Lord for urging me to leave California 40 years ago and come back home t’Maine. And now I have three of my children, and a parcel load of grandchildren and great-grandchildren around me (with four on their way!), and we all have our own homes in the countryside with our own well water and land.

I keep reminding myself: “If we have to be anywhere during this crazy, upside-down time, Maine is, by far, the best place to be.”

We’ll make it through to the other side. We’re made of tough root-stock.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a graduate of Belfast schools now living in Morrill.

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