Welcome to Mama Homesteader!

Follow my family in year 3 of our homesteading journey. Along the way we try to answer the question ," What can one small family do to change their lives on little more than 1/10th of an acre?" Let's Find Out!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Root Cellaring without a Root Cellar

     Last October/November I posted about my experiment of root cellaring without a formal root cellar. My home will be a century home in six years. It was build in 1918 as part of a WWI era planned community on the outskirts of town. The community itself was never finished according to the original plan, mostly due to poor building conditions just south east of my street. All the houses in this small area are variations on two different layouts, neither layout incorporating a root cellar.... Which surprised me. Considering the date in which the home was built, I would have thought it was something that would have been incorporated. But maybe its just the cut off time at which a root cellar was considered a necessity. Many of the older homes I've lived in have had a space that could have been easily converted to such a cause, while homes built after the 1920's seem to have none.
    But I digress. My home has no root cellar, and that lead me to experiment on finding ways to root cellar without one. At first I thought about the basement, but it draws damp and the cleanliness factor is less than ideal. Even if I built an enclosed room and tried to maintain a clean, temp controlled atmosphere I'd be lucky if it would work. The shed was even less of an option, it wasn't  exactly critter proof and any sand left in bags tended to freeze solid. In the end, I chose the downstairs coat closet. In the end it was clean, critter free, and cold but not freezing. The closet itself has two outside walls and two indoor walls. It was the perfect balance between the temperatures.
   And you know what? IT WORKED! I've been pleasantly surprised by the outcome of my experiment. So much so, that next year, I'll be doing it again. This year I stored carrots, winter squash, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, and some onions.. The carrots, parsnips, and turnips- I stored in damp sand. The rest I stored in a wicker basket.
    Here's what I did: I bought twelve bunches of carrots at the local farmers market.  I brought them home, did NOT wash them, and cut off the tops (Even that little nubbin that sticks up after you tear the tops off. Make a nice clean slice, don't leave anything or else your carrots will sprout!). Then I took a large Rubbermaid tote, laid down a layer of  slightly damp play sand, and added a layer of prepped carrots. It's important that your carrots don't touch, so that you can avoid potential contamination from spoilage! Then covered them with a layer of sand. Repeated the process.. When all the carrots were snuggled in, I put the lid on. Stuck it in the closet. Checked ever once in awhile for bad carrots and discarded  them to avoid the whole tote going bad.
   I didn't put a lid on the parsnips and turnips and seemingly they only lasted up until January, but my carrots lasted up until Easter! WOW nearly 7 months! I had very little spoilage, and that was only within the last week.( I'm certain that if the weather had not gotten unseasonably warm for a spell, then my carrots would have stayed snuggled in just fine for awhile longer.) My squashes and such lasted until January, and since I'm the only one who eats winter squash, I won't be cellaring as many next fall!
   Sarah enjoyed the experiment immensely. She thought it was cool that when she wanted a carrot, Mommy and her would dig in the sand to find one and wash it up. She loves carrots, and I'm just glad to have been able to save her favorite ones- which are way better than store bought.
             The big points to remember when root cellaring without a root cellar:
                   1) Choose a  location that remains cold, but not freezing.
                   2) Choose a location free of critters
                   3) Research the conditions needed, experiment accordingly
                   4) Make sure its easily accessible!
                   5) Have FUN!

                                               Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader


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