Posts Tagged ‘root cellar’

In the admin statistics for this blog, I have a record of search terms that led people here.  There are the expected searches, like things relating to goats, or root cellars.  Some are a little surprising.  The top terms that bring people to Rural Dreams are searches for a recipe for rose petal jelly, and searches relating to dogs eating tampons.


Then there are the ones that make you wonder.  “Pictures of chickens when defecating”?  Really?  Or “chicken with raggedy bum feathers”?  “Do sun city palm desert garages have rebarb”? Huh?  “Porn”?  When I read that last one out to Hubby, he laughed out loud, and said my blog must have been the very last click on a totally epic night.  How many pages in would you have to be in on google to find this blog with that search?!?


Some of the search terms make me wonder if the seekers found what they were looking for.  I even have good answers for some off them, but I don’t know if they’re really typed out, here on the blog.  It’s been bugging me, here are some of the questions, and my answers.


How long can you keep unwashed eggs in a root cellar?


We’ve kept them in the root cellar for several months, even in the summer.  It does depend to an extent on how cool your root cellar is, but even if it is a cool-ish room temperature, you’ll have a couple of months at minimum, as long as the eggs were fresh from the chicken when you put them down there.  In the UK (and possibly other parts of Europe, though I wasn’t paying enough attention in other countries), they don’t refrigerate eggs at the store or in homes – they are often kept on a basket on the counter.  Of course, the UK doesn’t experience the same sorts of summer temperatures as, say, Texas, so your location does play a role.  However, most root cellars will keep a reasonably stable cool temperature right through the summer, so you should be fine.


Also of note, if you have any question about whether your eggs might be good, drop them in a glass that is three- quarters full of water.  If they float, discard them.  If they sink, they’re probably fine.


How to melt winter snow quickly for toilet flush?


Well, first, don’t flush the toilet if it’s only pee.  That’s a waste of good water.  It takes a few gallons for a satisfactory flush, and it takes something like eight or ten gallons of snow to get one gallon of water.


We found the most effective way to melt snow was in large pots on the stove.  One trick, though, is to melt one pot full by continuing to add snow as things melt and compact, then let it get quite warm.  Pour that into a five-gallon bucket of snow (if you have one), and the heat from the water will melt a lot of snow very quickly.


If you suspect you will need to flush a number of times, it is efficient to scoop up pots and buckets of snow in the evening and bring them in the house to melt overnight.  Then you can heat the resulting water to melt a bigger bucket-full for flushing.


What to do with 20 pounds of cherries?


I recommend eating as many as you can.  I am happy to eat both sweet and sour cherries out of hand, but I am odd that way.  They are a pain in the neck to pit.  If you have a cherry pitter, it is a little more manageable, but it is still an awful lot of work.


If you are still determined to preserve them, the best way of doing so depends on whether you have sweet cherries or pie (sour) cherries.  Sweet cherries freeze fairly well, especially if you have a vacuum sealer.  Sour cherries are best canned, in my opinion.  I have tried making jam from sweet cherries, and found it fairly bland; pie cherries make a delightful pie filling or jam.  You could also make them into pies, and freeze them that way.


Can homemade ice tea stay out on the counter?


Yes, but not for more than a couple of days if it is sweetened, especially if it is hot out.  It will, in fact, go off.  Even if it is unsweetened, molds can grow in plain black tea, though unsweetened iced tea would probably last longer than the sweet stuff.  If in doubt, give it a sniff, and you’ll know.   However, to me, the whole point of iced tea is to have a refreshing cold drink, so we normally keep it in the fridge.


How long will my infant goat live without food?


It depends on the age of the goat kid, but if it is still exclusively nursing, then you probably have hours, not days.   The baby goat gets its liquids from the milk, as well as its nutrition, so the main issue here would be dehydration.  By the time a goat kid is a couple of weeks old, it will start experimenting with nibbling hay and grain, but it may or may not be drinking from a bucket.  If you are desperate, dip your finger into some water, then drip it in the goat’s mouth, or give it some in a baby bottle with the nipple sliced a bit to make the hole bigger.  This will buy you a little time to figure out what to feed it.  If it is a brand-new newborn, however, it needs colostrum right away, which gives it some antibodies to keep it from getting sick.  Without that colostrum, it does not have a very good chance of surviving.


Pics of dreaming cute baby?


Yup.  We can do sleeping:


cute sleeping baby


Or waking up:


cute baby waking up





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We did not have much of a garden in 2012 – everything kind of conspired against us.  Me being hugely pregnant, Baby M’s birth being so traumatic, his allergies (and constant screaming), and that big storm in late June that knocked over an awful lot of our little plants.


However, we did manage to harvest a significant amount of carrots (maybe forty or fifty pounds) about the same of potatoes, and a lot of onions (we planted 500 sets).  In the autumn, we bought some cabbages, beets, and turnips in bulk, and also we picked up some pumpkins and spaghetti squash from the farmer’s market to round out our winter vegetable supply.


In 2011 / 2012, the root-cellared carrots were done by mid-February.  This year, however, we’re still eating them from our root cellar.  Some have rotted, and the texture is not as crisp as when they were harvested, for sure, and there is some fuzz on some of them – we peel them now, instead of just scrubbing them – but we ate some in our soup tonight, and they are still entirely edible.  The potatoes are also fine, and the cabbages as well, though you have to peel off several layers of dessicated leaves to get to the good stuff.  The beets, like the carrots, are softer, but still edible.  The squash is fine.  Squash lasts forever.   Some of the onions are starting to sprout, but the rest are still as good as the day they were harvested.


The difference between this year and last year, for the carrots at least, is that we managed the humidity better.  Last year, some of the carrots got dried out quite early in the year, and got too dried out and bitter to eat much earlier than they should have.  Others of our storage carrots last year were too damp, and rotted early, as well.  This year, we kept the carrots in a plastic Rubbermaid tub, with a plastic bag draped over top, which we adjust when we’re down there – pull it off a bit if things seem too humid, or pull it more closed if things look like they might be drying out.  It appears to be working quite well, considering we’re still eating last September’s carrot harvest, on May first.  While the root cellaring books I have read suggested storing them in damp sand or sawdust, we haven’t found a good supply of either of those things, and are happy that our rigged system appears to suffice.  I am quite delighted to be eating our own local produce, eight months later!

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Spaghetti squash is amazing stuff.  It seems to do well in our difficult zone 2, low-rainfall garden, without additional irrigation.  A few plants yield more squashes than we eat in a year; last year, we got something like 20 squashes off 3 plants.  This year, nothing did very well, due to being planted late, flattened by a major storm, and barely weeded (if at all) through the summer; however, we still got a few squashes off the sole surviving plant.


The other thing that impresses me about spaghetti squash is it’s staying power.  We just, and I mean just tonight, disposed of the last of last year’s squash.  Squash we harvested approximately 13 months ago, and left sitting in a spare room through the winter and the heat of summer, with no special attention whatsoever.  In fact, I guarantee they were not in ideal conditions for any part of that storage, really – too humid for part of the time, and too warm for the rest.  We threw the last two in the chicken coop; one had soft spots, and the other had seeds sprouting inside, plus was going soft.  Mostly, we had been keeping them around just to see how long they would last, at this point.  However, we cooked and ate one about a week and a half ago, and it was fine.


Spaghetti squash is easy to cook; just cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and bake it, cut side down, for an hour and a half to two hours (for a large-ish squash) until the flesh is soft.   Then, you can use it like spaghetti – the flesh pulls apart in spaghetti-like strings, hence the name.  Another option is to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, stuff it with something tasty (we usually use leftover spaghetti sauce, cut about half and half with cooked rice), and bake it cut side up for about the same amount of time.


I have to say, I highly recommend this one for Canadian Prairie gardens; easy to grow + tasty + long storage life = a winner in my books!

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May and June would be our hungry months, here.  The potatoes have all sprouted, and while they are technically edible, they are bitter.   The onions are gone, and we’re out of salsa.  We’re down to just a couple of spaghetti squash, and even they are starting to soften.  Of course, we would still have grain and dry legumes if we were living strictly off what we could grow and store, and there are wild greens (like dandelion and nettle), rhubarb, and asparagus; however, it’d be a pretty limited diet around here for the month or so until the peas and new potatoes are ready. However, having said that, the chickens are laying like mad, and I could have been milking the goats, had I not decided it was not worth it when I was in late pregnancy and/or dealing with a newborn.


In the garden, the peas are up a hand’s width, but nowhere near bearing.  The lettuce and spinach that is up by the house (and therefore getting watered occasionally) is at the ‘baby spinach’ stage, but there is not enough of it for more than a few salads, just yet.  The stuff out in the garden is barely up.  The early potatoes are up, too, as are the early carrots and beets, but they are just tiny yet.  The June bearing strawberries are blooming, but berries are still a little ways off.  We should have planted corn and such last week, but with all the work to be done in the house before company arrives (tomorrow) and baby arrives (theoretically next week), the garden has taken a back seat.  Hopefully we’ll be able to get to it before baby comes, at least.


All in all, I’d say the root cellar experiment was a success.  Next year, we’ll try to manage the humidity better for the carrots and turnips, and hopefully will be able to get them to last longer.  We’ll also store fewer potatoes, as we did not even come close to eating what we had, and they can’t be fed directly to the livestock (they need to be peeled and cooked first, or they’re not very good for them).  We’ve planted more onions, in an effort not to run out this year, and lots of tomatoes for salsa.


Next year…

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Well, it’s May already.  The root cellar is looking pretty bare, now, and we’ve been running out of frozen goods, too.  The fruit, in particular, is all gone, and we’ve pulled up the last couple of bags of green peas to the top of the freezer, to be used up.  Hubby has been rationing the salsa very, very carefully, and informs me that we *still* have three jars left.   The canned goods are otherwise holding up well, though that will change as the weather gets warm and I start craving chilled canned pears and peaches.   As it is, I have started my other late-spring ritual, of making (and drinking) gallons of home-made iced tea.


Amazingly, the potatoes are still entirely edible, even after more than seven months.  They are starting to sprout a bit, but remain firm.  The sprouting is just in time for early planting in the garden, and in a few weeks, we’ll plant our main crop from what is left in the root cellar.  The onions are similarly in great shape, though we’re down to just a few golf-ball sized teeny-tinies that we’re really only keeping around to see how long they will last.  The store-bought cabbages from last fall are still fine, as well, under the papery dried out leaves.  There are a few spaghetti squash remaining, and they are in good shape, but all of the other squashes had to be eaten or disposed of a while back.


We have been planting the early seeds over the last couple of weeks.  We got the peas in just in time for a long, cold rainy stretch, but a couple of days of warmer weather had them poking out of the ground.  Those sunny days dried things up enough for us to get back in the garden and plant some broccoli, radishes, and spinach, as well as some short rows of carrots, potatoes, and beets for summertime eating; the main crops will be planted between the end of the month and the middle of June, to be maturing just as the fall weather turns cold.   Of course, we had to race the rain again to get them in, and it’s been wet ever since.  The onion sets arrived a day too late to plant (darn rain!), and are waiting on the kitchen table for a few days of drier weather.  Meanwhile, I have started entirely too many tomatoes, peppers, melons, herbs, and such under the grow lights in my living room; I am always overly enthusiastic in my planting, but that’s okay.  At least there will be plenty of tomatoes for salsa!  We have been much more organized about planting and seed starting, and we’re hoping that getting things into the dirt in such good time will result in better crops this summer and fall.   Weather permitting, of course!

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Well, another new month, another fact-finding trek down to the root cellar!


As of today, a few of the potatoes are starting to go a little soft, but the majority are still firm and basically perfect.  Potatoes are amazing.


The beets are mushy, and pretty much done.


The cabbages are still firm, but have developed some white mold on the outermost leaves.  They are still fine to eat, once you peel off the few outermost layers, however.


The onions are still fine, but there are not many left, and we will be running out soon, despite our efforts at conserving.


The pumpkins all went mushy in the last couple of weeks, though the spaghetti squash are still going strong.


We are starting to go through the canned fruit more now, as we’ve run out of frozen.  It got to the point that I am now buying any fruit that is on sale at the store, and chopping and freezing it, as I still want my smoothies, but I struggle with paying $7.50 for a little baggie of frozen peaches.  Unfortunately, this totally blows our local eating thing; the six pounds of strawberries I cut up and froze last week were from California. This is not going to stop me from doing that, however, or from buying other long-distance fruit (fresh or frozen), as I am not willing to run any risk of compromising baby’s health over a matter of principle.  We will plan better (or at least put more fruit in the freezer) this summer and fall, and chalk this up to a lesson learned.


I don’t imagine we’ll have much left by next month, but I sure am curious how long those darn potatoes are going to keep on keeping on for…

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Continuing from January and February, our monthly food storage report:


The root cellar is starting to look a little more bare.


The carrots are now completely done; actually, they did not make it past the first bit of February before we weren’t really able to find non-bitter carrots.  I didn’t mind them being wrinkly, especially if we were using them in soups and stews, but I don’t tolerate bitter very well.  The goats are enjoying them as treats we dole out, however, so it is not a total waste.


The cabbages still look more or less fine.  As in last month, the outer leaves have dried out and discolored, but the heads themselves are still firm and tasty.


About half the remaining beets are fine – still firm and not sprouting too much.  The other half are starting to go soft, but are still completely edible.


The potatoes are fine.  I am still amazed by the potatoes.


The onions are going strong, but we are running out.  We are down to the little ones that are a pain in the butt, because you need 3 or 4 for a recipe.  Next year, we plan to plant 50% more – 600 sets, instead of 400.  It does not appear that they will rot before we can use them up, even the tiny ones, which is great.


The squash seem to have hit a wall this month.  About half of the remaining pumpkins, as well as a couple of the spaghetti squash, sprouted black gooey spots and mold in late February.  I am not certain if they just hit their ‘use by’ dates, or if it had something to do with us moving them into a different room of the house (they had to be moved, as we were painting the room they had been in).  The new room is just as cool as their former location, but may have had higher humidity.  Also, they wound up being more bunched together, rather than being spread out on the floor, simply due to the fact that we were putting a lot of stuff in that room in order to be able to paint the other room – air flow may have been an issue, as well.  At any rate, they were not a total waste, as the chickens really appreciate the squash, so we cut out the black and mushy bits to compost, and fed the rest to the poultry.


So as far as veggies go, we’ve already started having to buy carrots, and will be buying onions soon.  We’re fine for potatoes and cabbage, and the beets are so-so.  Suddenly, I am really noticing how well-suited the basic Ukrainian diet is for this region – perogies are flour dough, potatoes, onions, saurkraut, and cheese – things that store well here.  Same with borscht – beets and cabbage and sour cream.  Something to keep in mind when you’re planning your winter meals, anyhow.


As far as the other food storage goes, we’re starting to run out of some things.  I made too much jam and jelly this year, or did not give enough away, or something, but those shelves are still quite full.  We have not used any of the fruit syrup we made, though we’ve given some away, and it was very appreciated.  We still have lots of pears, peaches, and raspberries, but those are ones that always last fine through the winter and disappear in a flash come hot weather.  Salsa, however, we’re rationing, as we’d rather not have to buy it – it’s expensive, and not nearly as tasty from the store.  I should can several times as much this fall (if I can find the energy!).


The frozen stuff is much the same.  We have plenty of some things (corn, peas), too much of others (wax beans), and not nearly enough of a few things (peaches, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, mangoes).  I don’t think I miscalculated that badly on the fruit; I just seem to be having smoothies a lot more often than I used to.  I blame it on the pregnancy – I crave cold stuff frequently, but don’t want to load up on ice cream, so I make a nice, healthy smoothie, instead…almost daily…and have decimated my frozen fruit supply in the process.  Next year, we’ll put up extra, especially with the extra freezer downstairs, although it is fairly full with chicken, right at the moment.


Overall, we’re doing not bad.  I am not too happy about the squash crashing like it has, and we’re spreading them out better in an effort to get better air flow to the survivors.  I suspect that squash could store a whole lot longer, anyhow.  I’m still very happy with the potatoes, cabbage, and beets, and I have some ideas for how to stretch the carrots next year.  Onions – like I said, we’ll be planting a lot more come spring.  And we’ll adjust what we plant for the freezer (more peas, fewer beans) as well as making more of an effort to get fruit in the freezer, and spending maybe a little less effort on the jams and jellies.  We’ll get it all figured out eventually!

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