Last week’s chilly, frozen mornings were my first real reminder of what the coming months have in store for my family: indoor time. Mostly, this is a good thing, after a bustling season spent out of doors embracing our farm’s natural surroundings. It will feel good to snuggle up for stories near the wood stove. Or to knit for long stretches through the dark evening hours, when there is really nothing that could be done, even if I wanted to, out there in the utter darkness. (Unless, of course, I just wanted to stare at the vast expanse of glittering stars gracing that darkness, which I often do on still winter evenings.) So, in an effort to make our house ready for all of the indoor action that is in our near future, I’ve found myself busily sorting, cleaning, and re-arranging our indoor world. In my opinion, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as a little make-over on the homefront.But it’s not just my family I need to make room for. Part of my inspiration for all of this cleaning is to make room for our food. Our butternut and acorn squashes were relocated from the airy barn loft to the protected indoor environment of our cabin. Now, there’s no space for lost toys under the children’s beds. That space is currently packed to the gills with squash! I’ve said before that we live in a small space. We don’t have a cavernous pantry that can receive and store all our garden’s bounty. (We dream of this, but haven’t made it happen yet… someday!) We’ve had to get pretty creative over the years to figure out where all of this goodness should find a happy home for the winter. It used to be, before so much of our cabin space was occupied by three little peeps, that our sweet potatoes came into the house for the winter, too. Fortunately, we’ve figured out a system of storing our sweet potatoes in our greenhouse, and this has been working pretty well for us. Thank goodness, as this year we harvested nearly three thousand pounds of our family’s staple. (We don’t eat quite that much, our CSA shareholders get to have some, too!) But, if we happen to have sustained cold weather this winter, as many locals around here are predicting, I imagine we’ll need to clear a space for them in the house as well. But that’s ok. Sweet potatoes, like the squashes, are pretty quiet roommates.What remains growing in the garden, for the most part, can handle the colder temperatures of winter. The greens that can’t handle the cold, well, we bring into the house and grow a different sort of garden… Our indoor garden consists of a big 10 gallon crock. This vessel is the mingling place where our last harvests from the gardens come together and mix their flavors and juices to become another family staple: kimchi. We made our first round for the season last week, and now are ready to jar it up and store it, leaving our crock ready for round number two. Our goal is roughly twenty gallons to see us through the darker days of winter. By springtime, when our palettes are tiring of fermented fare, here come the first wild greens salads! Ahhhh… seasons. Our kimchi making is a family affair: Ira chopping daikon, Eric shredding Chinese cabbage and carrots, Opal peeling garlic, and Livi acting as my food processor assistant while making the hot pepper/ginger/onion/garlic paste that we liberally add to our ferment. Part of the reason we started growing ginger in the first place was because it used to be the only ingredient (other than salt, we’re still working on that one) that we didn’t grow on the farm. We’ve made kimchi for so many years now that we just kind of roll with it. But when we were first experimenting all those years ago, Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation was our indispensable guide.As we move inward, and I clear space in the house for children and squashes and piles of coats and hats and jars of fermented vegetables, I realize that this movement is not just about shelter from the elements. We move inward to seek restoration. We move inward to find our inner light, our inspiration. We move inward for deep, dark, cozy sleep. And blessing of all blessings, the seasons allow us to move inward to avoid burnout… the farmer’s bane. So even though there is still work to do in the garden, even though our lists are still long and our days are still full, the intensity is lessening. It’s unavoidable when your life is driven by the seasons. So, in my work of tidying up the physical space that I occupy, I am also clearing space for the introspection that winter seems to herald. Like the deciduous forest that surrounds me, I need to bring my work deep down into my roots. To take a deep breath and restore my expended energy, rebuilding my reserves for the time when the daylight once again grows longer. For now, though, the days are relatively warm and filled with the beautiful color of autumn. There are a few garden tasks yet to be completed and lots of outdoor projects on the drawing board. I feel the pull, though. I know what is coming. And I look forward to it.
Hello. Grab a cup of tea and join us for our Saturday discussion, “tea time”. We would love to hear from you, too. If you have something to contribute to this conversation, please leave a comment below. Enjoy.
Cher is thinking about…
Storage. Autumn is just around the corner, and this little snippet of cooler weather that we’re enjoying right now is a fabulous reminder. We are beginning to harvest storage crops from the garden. Onions and potatoes came out last week. Tomatoes are piling up, awaiting the knife and the canner. The pantry shelves are beginning to fill, jars seeming to pile up everywhere. My minimalist self often frets about where to tuck it all away in our tiny house, you know, so that there is still room for the humans…
Over the years, we have had to come up with some pretty creative solutions to storing all of the bounty in our tiny house and make-shift cellar, to keep it all safe from old man winter. I’ve spent many a winter sharing a bedroom with butternut squash. We’ve filled our cabin’s loft with hundreds of pounds of sweet potatoes. (Eric just corrected me here. It was thousands of pounds. 100 baskets x 25 lbs. each = 2500 lbs. I’m not sure what we were thinking. And I’m not sure how we pulled that off without our house collapsing. Oh my.) The past few winters, since they have been on the mild side, we’ve been able to store the sweet potatoes in our greenhouse, piled around the black-painted barrels for warmth, and then covered with blankets. (This way the kiddos can actually use their craft table that lives in the loft.) Potatoes are fine in the cellar, unless the weather turns too cold, and then they get crammed under the kid’s beds and piled in the bathroom. Ginger, too, finds it’s place… A basket here, a basket there.
I know we all live in small spaces. I know that our homes also serve as our offices and homeschools, and can’t be completely overrun with food storage. What creative solutions have you ladies come up with for the blessing of bounty from the garden?
How do you squirrels, I mean ladies, do it? xo cher
Coree has to laugh…
thinking about the time, just a few weeks before Lulah was born, when we were curing sweet potatoes ALL OVER the upstairs floor, and drying our peanuts ALL OVER the downstairs floor, and those were the only two rooms in the house.
It is amazing how we cram it all in. When we first moved here, there was nothing resembling a closet here. We tried storing everything in the crawl space under the house, but it was too damp for squash and sweet potatoes, and inconvenient for jars. We invested in a big set of industrial strength shelves and stacked it all together in a corner for awhile, but we soon outgrew that system. Now we finally have a bona fied closet with big, deep pantry type shelves that hold all the canned goods. Sweet relief. The squashes and sweet potatoes still end up living in baskets all over the place and we have yet to find anything like a good solution for our onions (what works for you ladies?). Potatoes go down under the house with a thick blanket over them. We’re grateful for my mother’s house in town and the use of a nice freezer there for some extra beans and corn. Dry beans and field corn get stashed in tight sealed buckets on the porch, in lieu of patio furniture. Want to enjoy the view? Pull up a bucket!
It’s not a perfect system, and we will never do a tour of homes – especially in Fall and Winter, but the sweet potatoes can’t be beat.
Bountiful harvest, friends! love, coree
oh my goodness, i literally tripped over our friday’s harvest bins that line the hallway of my house to get to the computer to read this. Robin here, with a hearty laugh. our history of food storage is as long as the history of our lives here on the farm. in the early years when the only winter warmth came from the set of woodstoves in our 2 room home (lovingly called the shack), everything was in those rooms. the canned goods under the bed, the storage vegetables in each corner. there were so many folks that worried about their pipes freezing if temperatures dropped, we worried about our quarts of tomatoes for running water wasn’t part of our lives back then. now, we have some indoor storage! in the earthen protection of our current residence, our canned goods are safe and sound in a deep pantry. storage crops line the walls of the laundry room, the kitchen, the back room, everywhere but our bedroom. in this phase of farm life, our sleeping quarters remain free of bushel baskets. we have high hopes for a cellar, but it is currently a hole in the earth. a step in the right direction i know, but still far from completion. i had every intention of including a photo here, but alas my living/dining space is buried in cut flowers, fresh herbs, peppers and tomatoes, so i just can’t get my hands on the darn camera! you will have to use your imaginations.