"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Knee Deep In Roots

In my opinion, one of the most important tasks involved in the long term storage of fruit and vegetables in ones root cellar is in maintenance. Almost every day I make a trip into the basement for some sort of veggie and always take the time to check and see how everything is doing. I might toss a rotten apple or pull a few shoots off an early sprouting Purple Majesty potato, perhaps the turnips are in need of a trim. Just last week I rid myself of the last of my Burpee Long Keeper tomatoes and sorted through our tomatillos. Why I bother to store either of these I do not know as we have tomatillos and tomatoes coming out of our ears in the form of salsa and sauce, both canned and frozen.

While everyone else seems to be covered under a chilly blanket of snow our winter has been abnormally warm and that is not conducive to good root cellar conditions. Normally I need to trim the sprouting shoots off carrots, parsnips, and beets by the time March rolls around in order to stave off the inevitable urge to grow that the warmer temperatures bring to these cellared foods. This will buy me a couple more months of storage time and after that point I will sometimes bury the remaining produce a couple feet down in the ground outside giving me yet another month or so of cold storage.

This year I found myself facing this task much earlier due to the the warmer weather. Yesterday my trusty assistants and I trimmed the parsnips and carrots. I still have to do the beets. It is an all day job to trim and repack thousands of roots and as it was so sunny and nice outside we got a late start.

It was so very nice out yesterday that boy and dog found some ice water to play in, against the advice of boy's grandparents of course. Boy slipped and fell in. Boy's boots filled with ice water. Grandma gave boy her socks. Boy walked the quarter mile home in grandma's donated socks while she carried his sopping boots. Grandfather and dog took another route home as he was afraid of what people might think if they saw boy wandering around without any shoes in the middle of winter. Boy learned that ice water is cold.

Rowdy, diligently guarding some of our soon to be trimmed parsnips.

Trimming and packing parsnips, the tops of these and the carrots were fed to the chickens

Grandson's job was to carefully trim carrots, he managed his assigned duties for almost 5 whole minutes.

Abandoned, as usual, Grandfather (I'm way too young for this title) found himself knee deep in carrots with four totes to go.):


Anonymous said...

You do have a lot of carrots and parsnips in your storage. This should last until new harvest.
I don’t have any storage place where I could keep veggies in winter, so for now I’m freezing most of it.

It's me ...Mavis said...

Ohh silly Mr. H...Children are suppose to jump into icy water... that's what they do... even in my old age I still jump into cold water...it's fun... for about 2 seconds... :)Ahhh to be young again :)

Dee Sewell said...

Your roots like great! Have you ever tried making parsnip wine? I'm about to write a blog about our parsley wine but have heard parsnip and rhubarb are the best.

Heiko said...

Funny enough I was about to post about roots... See you there in 1/2 hour?

Silke said...

I love root vegetables - always have. There's something so nourishing and comforting about them! Your parsnips (in German they are called parsley root, I finally figured out) look great as do your carrots. But grandson and dog look best of all! What a wonderful pair they make - one getting the other into trouble! That's how it should be, grandpa!! :) Silke

karenandjeff said...

I hope your grandson appreciates his wonderful education some day! Cute puppy.

Ayak said...

Such a lovely pic of your grandson and the pup Mr H. Oh I do miss parsnips!

Mrs. Mac said...

Your roots look great. Do you pack them in dirt? One of these years after I master growing the summer garden proficiently ... I'll turn to figuring out the root cellar. I've read about doing it .. but am still too green (as in inexperienced) of a gardener. Puppy and boy are so dang cute!

kelli said...

boy and rowdy are adorable!!!

Ribbit said...

Oh my goodness, you do store some food there, don't you! How I wish we could produce that amount.

diane@Peaceful Acres said...

Mike, we could share some of our snow! Just holler, we got 28" yesterday and we've had enough. With more to come this week, I'd be happy for you to have it!!!

Grandsons MUST be the most joy of getting "old".

kitsapFG said...

In our milder (coastal) climate we store the root crops by leaving them in the ground. Normally this works well, however this year the ultra mild January and start to February has encouraged them to break dormancy early and go into growth mode. I probably will have a much shorter overwintered harvest period this year as a result. Mitigating for this somewhat, the super early greens crops are getting a good jump on the season because of the milder conditions.

Pup and grandson are darling. The stored root crops look to be in great shape.

ThyHandHathProvided said...

I love it when kids get involved in the growing of food. Little seeds being planted is what that is:-).

Stefaneener said...

Doesn't in-ground storage a la Coleman sound tempting?

granny said...

I think the boy did well lasting 5 minutes :0)
Besides he has a dog to play with now!Way more fun.
The weather gadget on your side bar says 32f..0c..not real fussed on your "warm winter" lol.
Great post Mr H,as always :0)

Mr. H. said...

vrtlarcia - With any luck we will still be eating foods from the cellar in May, sometimes even early June if it does not get too warm outside. Freezing is an excellent option as well.

Mavis - Your right, children are suppose to jump in ice water and play in the mud...as long as they don't mind the consequences. Last winter we all played barefoot in the snow. We would all run outside and see who could stand it the longest and then run back in and defrost in front of the fireplace...and then do it all over again.:)

Dee - I looked at your post on parsley wine and am very intrigued by it. I will have to look up how to do it with parsnips...we have lots of parsnips.

Heiko - Your poetry really is quite good. I tried to recite your work to my wife but was unfortunately interrupted by small children and dogs. I will give it another try today.:)

Silke - We did not have very big carrots and parsnips last summer but were definitely able to make up for size with quantity. I make the boy call me grandfather, that way I at least sound old and wise instead of just old.:)

Karen and Jeff - I hope he does too. All we can do is share these things with him and hope for the best. Unfortunately his time away from us is much different, so teaching him can be a bit of a challenge at times.

Ayak - Thanks, it's very hard to get the two of them to sit still long enough to take a picture together though. No parsnips in Turkey, that surprises me as you do have carrots over there...don't you?

Cathy - Yes, we do use dirt. I dig down a few feet and get damp sandy soil. It works great and is readily available. We layer carrots, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes (not this year), sunchokes, beets, salsify, celeriac, and scorzonera this way. We also put the rooted end of kohlrabi, cabbage, and celery in this same soil for long term storage.

Kelli - Thanks! They both know it too.:)

Ribbit - It is quite a task but one that we are happy to take part in. It is quite empowering to have your own produce section right under your feet in the basement cellar.:)

Diane - No thanks! We had it last year and more than enough of it at that. I hope you guys are managing OK, we have been hearing about your weather conditions on the news. The grandson is a joy...but I'm not old yet.:)

kitsapFG - Last year I left a few carrots to overwinter in the ground and some of them turned out OK, but with no snow and almost 6 inches of frozen ground outside (under an inch of mud) I am glad that I did not do so this year. The veggies are in good shape, I only found a couple bad carrots and one celeriac root. Everything else is holding up well. I too am hoping for an early spring this year as I am running out of greens under my winter row covers.

Thy Hand - Little seeds is what we are shooting for. If someday when the boy is older a few of the seeds we have been planting in his little brain do indeed bare fruit I will know that we accomplished something of value in this life. Fingers crossed.:)

Stefaneener - I wish that I could keep my root veggies in the ground. Last year I would have had to dig through 100" of snow and this year we have no snow at all for insulation so the soil froze extra deep. I have considered covering things with hay and leaves and then putting a row cover over the top, but still...it is so much easier to just walk into the basement when I need something. I need to read Coleman's new book one of these days. I have the older one but am waiting to find a used version of his latest writing...on sale.

Granny - The boy actually enjoyed this task and 5 minutes is pretty good for him.:) Believe it or not 30-40F is pretty darn nice weather for us in the winter. We are often stuck in the low twenties so these temperatures seem warm in comparison.

Ayak said...

M H: Yes we do have carrots and other root vegetables, but not parsnips. I'm sure this subject has cropped up before but I can't remember where (maybe o Heiko's blog?). Anyway is it not something to do with temperatures and that parsnips need a period of near freezing temps and like frost. This is where the problem lies I think, because it's just not cold enough in winter and the summers are long and extremely hot.

If I thought they stood a chance I'd get some seeds on my next trip to England

Silke said...

You made me laugh with the "grandfather" comment, oh wise one! I'm barely over 40 and a great aunt many times over on Daniel's side of the family. Add to that my gray hair, and there's hope that wisdom might come my way soon...

Yes, Columbo! Loved those movies and the show. I rewatched some of them not too long ago and just loved his bumbling style that had everyone think he didn't know what he was doing! I think some of those old shows were just the best!

Enjoy your Monday!! Hi to Mrs. H! Silke

LynnS said...

Just looking at those little hands holding a mini iceberg hurts me!

Rowdy is so so adorable. Don't those 2 young ones make a perfect pair?!

Your roots look great, even considering your warm winter. Your normal cold weather conditions seems to make your root cellar the optimum storage. Seems the easiest, too.

GetSoiled said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: that is one lucky handsome (and stubborn) boy...and that is a gorgeous pup!!!!

Hope the cold returns just cool enough to help keep your root cellar nice and perfect for your food...it all looks so delicious!!!!

Your photos made me hungry...off I go to make dinner :)

Dirty Girl Gardening said...

I am soo jealous of your root cellar! It's such a romantic concept! I'm in cal so there is no need for a cellar that has anything but wine in it!

Mr. H. said...

Ayak - I think you should try growing them sometime. I have a feeling they would do OK for you. Anyway, parsnips in America are a forgotten crop...but not by us as they are so good.:)

Silke - I'm only 39...almost. It's a long story but I certainly do not feel old at this age although I do have a couple gray hairs as well...grandson's fault.:) I hope you had a most terrific Monday as well. Mrs. H says Hi!

Lynn - It hurts me too, the boy has no concept of cold...it's really weird. He hates to wear his gloves and is always handling ice and snow. I think he gets that from his grandmother. Whenever we have to wade across ice cold streams while hiking, and that is fairly often, my feet freeze while she does not seem to feel a thing...got me?

I love the whole root cellar thing, it is so easy after the initial effort of packing everything and some maintenance. Our weather seems to be cooling so my timing on trimming everything could not have been better.:) By the way, I have been testing how well sunchokes store this year and am very happy with the results. Everything I read says that they do not keep very well in cellar conditions but I beg to differ as ours, packed in damp sand, are holding up wonderfully.:):):)

GetSoiled - Both the boy and the puppy have that stubbornness and selective hearing thing in common.:) I do consider that a good thing though as I was much the same as a child and believe it eventually leads to a strong will. The cold is returning and the root cellar is in good condition. Have a great dinner!

Dirty Girl Gardening - Wine is good,I wish that I had some in my cellar. Thank you for visiting our little blog.


Accidental Huswife said...

Ha! Poor grandad abandoned grandad! Some of my best memories are "helping" my dad in the garden.

The Cottage Garden Farmer said...

How organised you are, if I manage to get my roots to crop properly, I certainly never get to clamp them,- my carrots are still out there in the plot!Lovely blog thanks

Mr. H. said...

Accidental Huswife,

Yes, poor me that is always deserted at my post but do secretly enjoy the time alone.:) Those are nice memories you have, I hope the lad will have a few of his own when he is older.

Mr. H. said...

The Cottage Garden Farmer,

Our organization is a bit chaotic at times but it does indeed work well for us. Thank you for visiting.


Frustrated Farmer Rick said...

As always I am awed by your productivity and how well you are able to protect and utilize the crop. I am seriously jealous of your parsnips. I haven't had much luck with them.

Mr. H. said...


It took me a number of years to get our parsnips to grow properly, but I have had luck with them lately...keep trying.:) They are an excellent storage crop.

I think that you and I are of the same mindset in that we are not willing to be unprepared should this whole system that everyone relies so heavily on collapse. Thanks for your comments.

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