* Food storage
* House plants in bloom
* Preparing for the holidays
Early settlers relied on root cellars out of necessity. We could use them today to save on fuel and electricity costs !
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, American Heritage online
Root cellars like the one above are located on old farms, this one in Berks County, PA. The below-ground cellar in the Life Magazine photo below was not used to store food. It served as a bomb shelter during the London bliz of World War II. The enterprising woman in the photo is shown watering her rooftop garden.
Some vegetables can be stored for up to 6 months, given the right combination of temperature and humidity. Onions, potatoes, and winter squash should be cured 1-2 weeks before storing.
There is a great variability in storage requirements for different food crops. Some like carrots, collards, broccoli require cold (32-40° F) and very moist (90-95% humidity). Others, like cucumbers, sweet peppers, and ripe tomatoes require cool (40-50° F) and moist (85-90% humidity). Garlic and onions need cool (32-50° F) and dry (60-70% humidity) conditions. Sweet potatoes, pumpkins and winter squash need moderately warm (50-60° F) and dry (60-70% humidity) conditions.
One of the best online sources this writer has found on the subject is a Univ. of Wisconsin publication, A 1135 at extremist.uwex.edu. A definitive source on cold storage of fruits and vegetables is "Root Cellaring" by Mike and Nancy Bubel. They offer instructions for converting a basement or simply taking advantage of cool spaces under porches or other places by packing in damp sand and plastic foam chests.
A window in our basement that opens into a well averages around 40-50 ° in the winter. The rest of the basement remains around 60°, since our washer, dryer, and heat furnace is located there. By juggling our ourdoor screen porch attached to the garage, our unheated mud room, and the basement window area, we can store some vegetables through January.
Storm windows, insulation, lower thermostats can make a difference in your pocketbooks, especially now that energy prices more accurately reflect the market.
Check out Cobwebs Archive for energy-saving tips from the Dept. of Energy, Pacific Gas and Electric, EPA and other excellent sources.
House Plants in Bloom
Holiday Cactii are reported to require long nights and cool temperatures to set bloom. This Thanksgiving Cactus thrives in our unheated upstairs study, in bright indirect sunlight. The same plant will bloom well and a bit earlier in our downstairs, heated area with bright direct light.
Poinsettias are more fussy. They need 14 hours of continuous darkness for 8-10 weeks in order to set their blooms.
NASA says many tropical houseplants will scrub significant amounts of three of the most common indoor toxins benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from indoor air. Allergists say they are dust-collectors. Draw your own confusions, as my mother used to say.
We have only low-care tough houseplants that can take some abuse -- spider plants, arrow plants, and the ornamental cactus, aloe, and wax plant.
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