Monday, 18 April 2011

Root Cellaring

I have to admit that I'm growing a little anxious about storing this year's harvest.  Last year, we ran out of stored produce in December, so keeping food for longer than a few months wasn't an issue.  This year, with my plans for a larger garden, and more time to actually tend said garden, I'm anticipating and planning for a much larger harvest.  My goal this year is to double what we produced last year which means that adequate storage is in order.  I'd say it's as important (if not more important) as all the planning, planting and tending...  I'd hate to waste all the hard work that I KNOW will be invested - heck I've ALREADY invested time in planning the garden as evidenced by the stack of books and papers strewn about our kitchen.

One of the books that has helped me think about cellaring is Root Cellaring, Natural Cold Storage Of Fruit and Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel (pictured above).  It's a great book with lots of practical information, but there has been another FREE and very helpful source of information (one that I encourage everyone to tap into).... The Neighbours!   We have great neighbours - they are long time residents out here in the country, having raised their family here.  Their adult children live on the same property in their own homes, raising their own children literally on the land they grew up on.  I love that :)  These 3 families share a LARGE garden and they all work it together.  It's an excellent arrangement for all involved.  What all this means to me, is that I have a wealth of information about gardening/food storage IN THIS LOCALE, right at my fingertips.  Each area has it's own quirks, and we won't have the same issues that people in the city might have.   Never underestimate the power of knowledge passed on from a seasoned gardener/food preserver/keeper IN YOUR LOCALE.  That information is like gold!

What I learned this past week (from this family), is that it is indeed possible to keep potatoes until May in the garage, on the concrete floor, in burlap sacks or heavy paper bags IF the garage is heated (just enough to keep the frost out), and adequate moisture is provided.  We already heat our garage to said temperature so that's not going to cost us any more than it already does.  A simple pan of water placed nearby at floor level keeps moisture levels up and also indicates freezing temps at a glance.  It's brilliant in it's simplicity!  Potatoes are the largest crop that we need to store as this point, so this information is valuable to us especially since it comes from someone who has been successfully using this technique for decades right across the road in a nearly identical garage!

As for everything else (carrots, onions, squash, etc...) we plan to ventilate our basement storage room using a brilliant technique that a local urban homesteader uses.  After insulating the room well and weatherstripping the door, he uses 2 holes cut into an exterior wall to ventilate.  One cut up high near the ceiling to let warm air out, and another hole with PVC pipe fitted and caulked into it, angled straight down to floor level for the cold air return  (a "sweep" fitting installed up near the top will help get the correct angle to the floor.  Of course, both holes MUST be adequately and securely screened for rodent/insect control.  This fellow takes a bucket with a little water in it each time he goes down to the cellar, and he splashes a little water around on the concrete floor to boost humidity.  He then (ingeniously) uses the now empty bucket to bring up his veggies to the kitchen.  Total simplicity at it's finest.  This we hope to duplicate in time for storing our bounty!

The kids worked quickly this morning on some writing and math, as we had a friend arrive late morning to play for the afternoon.  I managed to pique their interest over lunch about doing some physics experiments this afternoon ~ I introduced the topic of "Speed of Falling Objects".  Much discussion and mental math ensued  :)   A book I love to use for physics is pictured above.  It's largely discussion and experiment based which is perfect for those who prefer to learn while doing.  It's loaded with lots of questions to get one thinking...  I find that lunchtime is a great opportunity to discuss any topic.  Some lively conversation takes place at our table, often amid the "in progress" mess of the mornings projects strewn about.  Our table is rarely totally clear, lol.  As well, I read out loud at lunchtime quite often, as a chapter here and a chapter there really add up when we are moving our lives outdoors with less and less time snuggled up with books and blankets...

Paige was busy stick weaving this morning with a kit she received as a Christmas gift.  It's from Lee Valley tools here in Canada.  It came totally complete and is a snap to get going on. She loves it and is creating a scarf for her little doll friend.  Mind the funny expression, she was tolerating (barely) the interruption in her train of thought....

More on the cold frames tomorrow.  They are built, but not yet assembled - they needed to dry overnight.  They look great considering the were made from entirely scrounged materials!  Here's hoping we have them positioned and some seeds planted in there VERY soon!


  1. Hey there, good luck with the storage over winter....I only have space to pick as I grow, wish I could do all that....looks like you have done enough research for it...I think you are prepared and you will do well.

  2. We live in a 1450 square foot bungalow with a finished basement. I am fortunate to have a storage room with a concrete floor that is on an outside wall. I think I'm just going to give up the back half for a cellar, and keep the front half for storage/electrical panel, etc. A simple, small door will give access.. thinking out loud. A smaller space will be easier to keep humidity and temp even than a big space.

  3. Wow, I wish I could grow enough veg to wish I could have a done!