2021 garden: into the root cellar

With the blessed rain we’ve had, our garlic and onions hanging in the canopy tent did not get rained on, but when I checked them this morning, I was concerned about the effect the humidity might have on them. They need cool and dry to cure, but our options were hot and dry, or cool and damp. Suddenly hot and humid changes things. 🙂

We did not get more rain today, and by the end of the afternoon the bulbs felt dry again, so I prepped them to bring into the root cellar.

The garlic got their tops trimmed, and everything got their roots trimmed off as well. The job was very quick and easy to do, with them all hanging in the tent!

It seems like so little, when they’re in the grocery bag I used to bring them inside!

I left them as they were on their twine, so they could be hung in the root cellar.

The root cellar is under the entryway, which is two steps lower than the rest of the new part of the house. I’m about 5’4″, and I had to make sure not to hit my head on the floor joists for the floor above! It’s definitely cramped in here!

There are quite a few large nails hammered into the floor joists. I used those to hang the strings up again, so they can continue to cure. You can’t see it in the photo, but there is a duct running between a pair of floor joists to outside, for air circulation. The duct is covered with mesh on the outside, to keep the critters and insects out.

We had been thinking of converting this room into a cheese cave and monitored the temperature and humidity in here for about a year, taking once a week readings. We missed a few weeks here and there, but still spanned a year.

The average temperature in here was 12C/54F, and the average humidity was 62%. The highest temperature was 18C/64F, which is what it was at while I was hanging the garlic. The lowest temperature was 6C/43F. The highest humidity reading was 88%, and the lowest was 28%. While I was hanging the garlic, it was just under 80% humidity.

The ideal average temperature for a root cellar should be between 0C – 4C (32F – 40F) with the humidity ranging from 85%-95%

So the conditions we should be getting, for a good root cellar, are winter temperatures and summer humidity levels.

:-/

One of the things I noticed while ducking around the ceiling to hang the garlic, is that the light bulb in there is putting off a lot of heat.

I was thinking of setting a fan up in here, but there is no outlet.

After scrounging and digging around, I found a low lumen “chandelier” LED bulb, and an outlet adapter for the fixture. My husband isn’t using his box fan right now, so I set that up in the root cellar, plugged into the outlet adapter. The adapter has a pull cord so that the light can be turned off while the outlet still gets power, but because of the type of light bulb in there now, it didn’t want to shut off, and just blinked on and off. So I left it on. It won’t add to the heat, and won’t use much power. We’ll just have to check the garlic and onions regularly, until they are cured.

Once the garlic is finally cured, they will be taken off their twine and packed into cardboard boxes or paper bags, depending on what we have available at the time, for storage. The onion braid will probably just stay hanging. I expect, before those are ready, we’ll have harvested the rest of the onions and will have them hanging in the canopy tent for a while, before moving them into the root cellar, too.

Hopefully, by winter, we will have more food stored in here, such as melons, winter squash and potatoes. We had high hopes of being able to store canned goods here, too, but between the critters and the drought, we’ll be lucky to be able to do some refrigerator pickles. 😦 Anything else we have will be in quantities that will be more practical to freeze or dehydrate, rather than can. Even if we won’t be able to can much from the garden, I am planning on pressure canning heat and eat meals, at least, like chili or stew. Things like that are just really handy.

We shall see how things go over the next couple of months!

The Re-Farmer

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