Friday, March 19, 2010

One Step Foward, Two Steps Back...!

More and more these days, we are making our way back to the older ways of doing things.

Sometimes it's from necessity, sometimes it's because we just want to separate ourselves from the dependency on grid power! Whatever the reason, many of us are looking into, and implementing, some of the more simple and effective ways of caring for and extending food storage.

Of course, one of the best remembered ways of doing this is through the time honored use of a root cellar!

Here's some tips from the Almanac along these lines...

Before refrigeration, the root cellar was an essential way to keep carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips, potatoes, and other root vegetables fresh through the winter months.

This time-tested storage method still makes sense today—whether you stock a root cellar with your own homegrown produce or the bounty from local farmers' markets.

Technically, a root cellar is any storage location that uses natural cooling, insulating, and humidifying properties of the earth.

To work properly, a root cellar must be able to hold a temperature of 32º to 40º F and a relatively humidity level of 85 to 95 percent.

The cool temperature slows the release of ethylene gas and stops the grow of microorganisms that cause decomposition.

The humidity level prevents loss of moisture through evaporation—and the withering looks that go along with it.

To create the best atmosphere in your root cellar, consider this:

Complete temperature stability is reached about 10 feet (3 m) deep.

Don’t dig a root cellar near a large tree; the tree’s roots can be difficult to dig through, and they will eventually grow and crack the cellar walls.

Inside, wooden shelving, bins, and platforms are the norm, as wood does not conduct heat and cold as rapidly as metal does.

Air circulation is critical for minimizing airborne mold, so shelves should stand 1 to 3 inches (3 to 8 cm) away from the walls.

For outdoor root cellars, packed earth is the preferred flooring. Concrete works well and is practical for a cellar in a basement.

Every root cellar needs a thermometer and a hygrometer (to measure temperature and humidity, respectively), which should be checked daily, if possible.

Heat is usually regulated using ventilation to the outside or an exhaust pipe—usually to allow cold air in, often on fall nights to get the temperature down.

I realize that many of us don't have the area to put in a root cellar, but you can use buried trash cans and such. A search on the Internet will reveal some ways of following this option...and this could help if you live in the city, where digging a root cellar could draw some unwanted attention from nosy neighbors and the County Mounties and Permit Police!

Anyway, let's get some fresh coffee and sit outside for a bit...we can talk about FOOD!


Anonymous said...

You must have been reading my mind tonight.

HermitJim said...

Hey OGT...
You thinking about something like this, are ya?

It would be pretty good where we are going, huh?

Thanks for the visit, buddy!

Wyn Boniface said...

How to do that in this water table is the big question.

The cottage by the Cranelake said...

I do miss my old root cellar! There´s no better place to storage apples in (and all other kinds of fruits or vegetables), not to forget jam and other made things too.

I have a normal cellar in my cottage and it works ok cold winters like the one we´ve had this year. Good blog today!
Have a great day now!

HermitJim said...

Hey Wyn...
It does indeed pose some problems in our area! The clay doesn't help much either!

Where there is a will, there's a way...or so I've heard!

Hey, thanks for coming by today!

Hey Christer...
I would think that with your weather there, a regular cellar would work just fine! Probably stays at just about the right temperature all the time...

I do appreciate the visit today, my friend!

AJK said...

I love your post! I've been thinking of root cellars for a while, but trying to figure out where, I was thinking under our garage, the north-east side of it. It stays very cool there, shady all day.

LizBeth said...

Thanks for all the info. That is really helpful. Appreciate the link to the Almanac. I'm trying to learn more of the "old" ways before I get too old to do anything about them!. ~Liz

riverwalker said...

Mornin' Jim!

I'm kind of in Wyn's boat. If I dig down ten feet in my area, I'm going to wind up with a water well instead of a root cellar. Need to check the different options though and try to come up with something that's viable.

I'm going to get another cup of coffee now...


Anonymous said...

Thanks HermitJim - down here, water table is high enough to where it might corrode a trash can made of even galvanized metal. Paint it with rush inhibitor (outside of course) before you sink it in.

Might be an idea to dig the hole a bit deeper, and have a rock / pebble base for water to sneak on past the can, just for good measure.

Thanks again.

Mayberry said...

Heh, with all the wet stuff we've had this winter, I'm hitting water at two feet. But folks are heading back to the old ways, a little at a time. Someone a block away from me, in a suburban neighborhood, has chickens in their fenced front yard! More power to 'em sez I, maybe I can swap some produce for fresh eggs.....

HermitJim said...

Hey AJK...
Good to see you this morning! I don't see why the area under your garage wouldn't work just fine!

Actually, any place that has good soil and some shade from the rain would work in your area!

Hey, thanks for the visit this morning...!

Hey LizBeth...
Totally my pleasure this morning!

As far as the link to the Almanac, I look at it nearly every day. So much information, and it's been around for a very long time!

About the age does have a way of sneaking up on ya! It's all a matter of mind over matter...if you don't mind, it don't matter!

Thanks so much for coming by today!

Hey RW...
Of course, if you were trying to hit water, it wouldn't be so easy! Here in Houston, the water is pretty close to the surface as well, but of course it's non-potable!

Too bad we can't drop in a metal container like the ones from the port!

I sure appreciate the visit, R.W.

Hey Anon 5:49...
I think some area have the same problem, and that may be one reason we don't have too many cellars here in the deep south.

I don't see why the gravel thing wouldn't work. Might be worth considering, for sure!

Thanks for coming by today!

Hey Mayberry...
I think the chickens are great! They don't mind the city, as long as they have a place to scratch and bugs to eat!

It could come in handy to know of a good source for fresh eggs!

Wonder how long before the PTB start hassleing them?

Hey,thanks for the visit, buddy!

Bob Mc said...

For those fortunate enough to have a spring or creek on their property, another old time solution to the refrigeration problem is the spring house.

HermitJim said...

Hey Bob...
I had almost forgotten about the spring house until you reminded me!

Several of my relatives in the country used a spring house, right up until the day they passed away>

Worked pretty good, as best as I remember.

Thanks for coming by today!

Mechanic in Illinois said...

I know some old farmers that use root cellars. When TSHTF they'll still be eating. I hope they'll still be my friends at that time. Thanks for another good lesson.

Ted said...

I remember my mother putting milk inajar and letting it down the well to cool it