Our growing season is over, the garden is tucked in, and we can kick back and focus on the holiday season and plans for next year's garden.
* Food storage
* Preparing indoor plants for winter blooming
* Stacking cordwood
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.
Preparing House Plants for Blooming
Holiday Cactii are reported to require long nights and cool temperatures to set bloom. Our Thanksgiving Cactus
is located in an unheated second-story office, with temperatures now averaging around 55 degrees and bright direct sunlight for about 6 hours. Peak bloom period is around mid-November.
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. Especially important in energy efficient homes and offices.
Getting Ready for Winter
A full cord of wood takes up 128 cubic feet of space. This stack is only one half a cord. One full cord gave us two seasons of fires -- at least 1 fire a day (3-4 hours), averaging 5 days a week for about 5 months. Our woodstove is located in the living room, where we can enjoy our fire at night while watching TV. It is a soapstone woodstove and is so efficient we end up turning our thermostat down to 62°.
The graphic below from an old issue of now defunct Harrowsmith Magazine shows how to alternate layers to allow for maximum air circulation. This is the correct way to do it.
Visit Cobwebs Archive, or use our search engine for other energy-saving tips.