Back then, we older children worked at home in the gardens, weeding in the fields, caring for livestock, milking cows, and feeding chickens. By this time school had begun, but that did not excuse us from assigned chores of digging onions and potatoes, gathering tomatoes, hand shucking corn, and doing innumerable other late summer jobs. It also did not excuse us from our regularly assigned duties of cutting and supplying firewood, trash removal, and mowing grass. When (and if) we ever got caught up, we were allowed to work for neighboring farmers for extra income. Somehow all the jobs and responsibilities balanced out, but the most important part of this was not in all the work that needed to be done. It was in knowing we were self-sufficient and self-reliant in a number of foods that we grew ourselves: not store bought! It was a deeply satisfying feeling that many of these foods were conveniently stored within the confines of our home, whether under a bed, in a closet, or in the cold cellar.
In all my years I've never forgotten the idea of stocking up for the winter months. Unless I was on military duty, away from home traveling for work, or for some other unavoidable reason, I've always lived near the soil quite literally. Rarely is there a day when I am not somehow in contact with it, whether mowing, weeding, tilling, or some other way. All of this leads me to the main points of my article about storing fall-harvested vegetables for winter. Once you begin, you will experience that feeling of independence; and you'll save money too!
My first major point here is the need to properly cure (dry) onion bulbs before storing. I realize everyone has an opinion about this, and so do I. I let my onions dry until the stems have shriveled to almost nothing. I will post a couple more pictures here to illustrate the drying process. If there is moisture at the necks or in the skins, you will have rot! It's that simple. The picture at the far left shows some of my areas of concern. The white circle surrounds the cut stem where it is completely dried. That particular onion is 'Copra,' one of the best for long-term storage. I have kept these in cold storage well into spring over winter. The picture at the immediate left is 'Highlander.' The illustration here shows that the two onions have been dusted with a light coating of garden sulfur, which I use in several applications as a fungicide. It is a good natural product that works well! For interested readers, there's a picture below, along with another fungicide called Daconil.
I like alternating these two garden products on all vegetables, as well as on ornamentals, such as irises, peonies, and roses. They are also good for keeping mildew off phlox and bee balm. I will add another pointer, although it belongs in another article: I dust all iris plants with sulfur before I ship them to ATP irisarians.
I've failed to mention my other primary staple crop: potatoes. I use about the same procedure for curing (drying) the potatoes as for onions. Nicked or damaged spuds get used first, and they do not qualify for storage. Potatoes are dug in bright sunny weather and left to dry in the garden, exposed to the sun. Windy, breezy conditions help the process of curing. I like to leave them a day or two, and then place them into well-ventilated crates in a cool, dry location. I have extra room in the garage for this purpose, as shown with the onions in photo #4 above. Once removed from the garden, all potatoes are dusted with a fine coating of sulfur. This is such a good product for storage, and its cost is minimal.
The pictures in this segment illustrate the drying-out process in the gardens, as well as in shallow boxes and well-ventilated crates, similar to the ones in photo #4 above. No produce will go into cold storage until it is completely dry. Wet, rainy conditions must be avoided at all times during the curing/drying process. The weather forecaster is your friendly helper. Observe all expected weather conditions during harvest. This article covers only two fall-harvested vegetables, and both are root crops. I have also stored carrots, turnips, apples, and beets successfully over the winter, but those are topics for another time. Due to the risk of boredom, It seems appropriate to stop here. I am hopeful this information might be useful to those who long for independence and freedom from supermarket prices, and especially to families with children. These ideas could possibly be very useful and fulfilling for children of all ages.
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