Thursday, November 26, 2015


What am I thankful for?  I thought I could summarize this in a word or two; maybe a string of emotions or the obvious list of nouns. 
As I sit here, my thanks is nearly overwhelming. It bubbles up from the center of my chi and enters the world through every pore of my being. I feel my inner heart filling and my eyes watering as I contemplate what it means to be 'thankful'.....

It is easiest to start with those closest to me.
I am thankful for my husband; my compassionate partner. We, by a small miracle, found each other long ago and the bond that we forged forms the ramparts of my heart.
I give gratitude to the forces that brought our children to us; each unique, loving, beautiful molecule of their beings....
I am blessed with a family; scattered across the frozen tundra, rolling fields, sapphire lakes and desert lands far from my home. Although we are far, I feel them calling...
I remember my ancestors; both those I have known and those who are a mystery. Without you, I am nothing.
My friends, near and far, fill me with happiness. I embrace them today with my love.
And yes, our pets. Dogs and cats living together in anarchy. You warm our beds and encourage us to curl up for a nap once in a while.

I am thankful for the divine intervention of art, creativity and ingenuity. Of mathematics, language and scientific inquiry. These human expressions of the innermost secrets of our world are the bright colors in the tapestry of my life. Without them, I am black and white.

I am thankful to live in peace. This thanks is larger than me. It is one voice in a collective sigh of relief and often of guilt. The world is in need of more islands of solitude. Today, I send my cry of mercy to those in this world living in struggle. May peace find you, may you have loving kindness surround you and keep you safe.

I send my gratitude to our Earth, our mother. You have granted us unlimited possibilities to enjoy your beauty. You create and destroy. May we all find a space for you in our lives. I remain humble before you.

I send my thanks to the heavens that surround us. Each night, I am afforded the opportunity to observe the immensness of your contribution in my life.

I live in a state of Thanks but today I celebrate it as the focal point of my thoughts. Love to all of you and a Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Storing crops into winter 2015

I probably spent too much of my time as a little girl reading books like Little House on the Prairie. I have been fascinated with the idea of root cellars and food preservation for most of my life. Growing up, we would always make an effort to bring in the last of our tomatoes and would carefully lay them in shallow boxes with sheets of newspaper near our downstairs woodstove in an attempt to ripen some of the remaining half-ready fruits. My mother and grandmother were canners and we had a small room in our basement with a chest freezer and shelves stocked with preserving jars. But we never did much of what I would consider ‘root cellaring’.  This was something I began experimenting with much later in life.
 Probably the greatest deterrent to root cellaring is a lack of experience or understanding the ‘correct’ space to do it in. You don’t have to have an actual cellar to hold over many traditional root crops into the winter months but you do need to have a space available that is above freezing and below about 57 degrees Fahrenheit (between 32F and 50F is ideal). For most people in this area, that space could be a garage, unheated porch or basement. Having a method of reducing the amount of sunlight that enters that space is also helpful. If you have access to both of these things, you can begin to practice the art of long-term produce storage.
Some of the most traditional root crops to hold into the winter are potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips and beets.  It is also possible to hold over kohlrabi, celeriac, Napa cabbage, leeks and Belgian endive. These are all vegetables that tend to be biennial in nature. When left to their own devices, these plants tend to hunker down for the winter in an attempt to re-grow the following spring and produce flowers (and eventually, seeds). The first rule in root cellaring is to pack away this produce unwashed and topped (meaning, cut off the foliage). The washing process removes the thin layer of dirt that essentially encases the root crops and protects them from unwanted pathogens that eventually lead to decay. Washing also stimulates growth by providing the root with excess water that it feels inclined to try and soak up (Potatoes, carrots beets etc.… are roots….water absorption is their primary function). The process of stimulated growth reduces the long-term storage ability of root crops and will eventually lead to a minor amount of top growth and a very soft, spongy, hairy root. Often, our root crops are dug and then left to dry off for an hour or two (especially if dug after fall rains begin). Then, gently, I use my hand to brush off any large clods of dirt before arranging the produce in layers in a shallow Rubbermaid tote. For our family, we typically eat one tote’s worth of carrots a winter and at least 2 totes of potatoes.  Lids are placed on the totes and then labelled with tape and a sharpie indicating the date and contents. Finally, the totes are stacked inside our walk-in refrigerator for the winter (about 38-40F).  That’s it. Pretty simple. To date, we have held potatoes this way for over a year without sprouting; their flavor remains as sweet as when they were first dug.

Surely, as you experiment with root cellaring, you will experience failure from time to time. However, success is eventually guaranteed if you continue to experiment with your technique. And for me, in the winter, I would rather eat my own carrots and potatoes. Good Luck and Happy Gardening!