Garden & Agriculture Archive


Maple Syrup 101: When Do I Tap My Tree?

Monday, January 13th, 2014

With sugaring season almost upon us, many folks are already setting their eyes on a nearby stand of maple trees and getting ready to set taps, run lines, and collect sap.

If you only have a couple of trees nearby — say in your backyard — author Mike Farrell (The Sugarmaker’s Companion) has some simple advice for you to get started tapping a few trees and collecting the sap by bucket. The following is adapted and condensed from Chapter 5 of his book.

Happy sap collecting!

Backyard Sap CollectionWhen to Tap

One of the most difficult decisions you have to make from year to year in your sugaring operation is deciding when to tap. I always recommend tapping just a few trees in January and February to determine what is going on with sap flow conditions. In relatively cold areas, even when the temperatures get above freezing in January and February, the amount of sap flow can be negligible. The trees are basically frozen, and it takes an extended period of warm temperatures to induce substantial sap flow. In warmer regions where the winter isn’t as severe, optimum temperature fluctuations usually happen all winter and the trees may be producing a decent amount of sap in January and February. If you see this happening in your test trees, you’ll want to tap the rest of your sugarbush to catch the early sap runs.

How to Tap

Finding the Right Spot

The first step in tapping is to find a good spot to drill the hole. It doesn’t matter how nice a hole you drill, what type of spout you use, or what level of vacuum you are pulling if you have drilled into a bad section of the tree. To get a decent amount of high-quality sap, you need to drill into clear, white sapwood. It is important to avoid previous tapholes and the associated stain columns as well as other defects and rotten areas on the trunk. Large seams and wounds are easy to identify and avoid, but it takes a trained eye to locate old tapholes.

Drilling the Hole

Sugaring Tap

Some people advocate drilling the hole directly into the tree whereas others recommend drilling at a slight upward angle. I usually try to achieve a perfectly straight hole but always err on the side of making it at a slight upward angle whenever necessary. No matter how you drill the hole, be sure to use a relatively new, clean, sharp drill bit that is intended for drilling into maple trees.

When you are pulling the drill out of the tree, always examine the shavings to make sure that they are pure white. If you get brown or dark-colored shavings, you have drilled into a bad part of the tree. Your sap yield will be negligible, and any sap that does flow may have a yellow tinge to it and impart off-flavors to your syrup.

Setting the Spout

The final step is placing the spout in the tree. It takes some practice to figure out how hard to tap on the spout to get it nice and snug without overdoing things. Not tapping in hard enough can cause the spout to be too loose, creating a vacuum leak. On the other hand, tapping too hard can potentially cause the wood to split, which in turn leads to vacuum leaks, lost sap, and increased wounding at the taphole. Most sugarmakers use regular hammers to set the spouts, but you don’t necessarily hammer the spouts in. Just a few gentle taps will usually do the trick until you hear a thumping sound. As soon as you can hear the difference, stop tapping on the spout.

Row of Sugaring buckets

Calling All Young Farmers: This Land is Your Land

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

If you’ve seen Food, Inc., read Michael Pollan, or heard of Polyface Farm, chances are you’re familiar with Joel Salatin—the charismatic leader of the local food movement and arguably America’s most influential farmer.

Salatin’s latest book, Fields of Farmers, is a response to the aging farmer phenomenon (the average farmer is now 60 years old) and a call to action: To inspire a new generation of young famers to take over the fields from their aging mentors.

“If you own land and don’t know what to do with it, this book is for you. If you want to farm, but don’t know how to start, this book is for you. If you are an aging farmer struggling with a succession plan, this book is for you. And if you are a farmer’s child trying to make a place for yourself on the family farm, this book is for you,” writes Salatin in the Introduction. “We are all utterly and completely dependent on soil, honey bees, raindrops, sunlight, fungi, and bacteria. Neither the greatest scientific discovery nor the highest gain on Wall Street compares to the importance of a functioning carbon cycle or dancing earthworms.

Based on Salatin’s decades of experience at Polyface Farm, Fields of Farmers discusses problems and solutions surrounding the land and knowledge transfer crisis of the present day.

The problem is widely discussed in the farming community. For example, take The Greenhorns
—a grassroots non-profit dedicated to promoting and supporting a new generation of young farmers, or the National Young Farmers Coalition – an organization that works to mobilize and engage young farmers. Everywhere you look, there are people and organizations working to combat the problem of the aging farmer.

“As usual, Joel Salatin is once again on the cutting edge of change, writes Allan Nation, Editor and Co-owner of The Stockman Grass Farmer, in the Foreword. “Whether you want to be an intern, or hire an intern, reading this book will be invaluable for you.”

Fields of Farmers: Interning, Mentoring, Partnering, Germinating is available now and you can get for 35% off as part of our Holiday Sale with discount code CGS13 until the end of the year. Read the introduction below.

Celebrate Agricultural Literacy Week with NOFA-VT: November 18-24

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

This week, our friends at NOFA-Vermont are celebrating Agricultural Literacy Week.

It’s an opportunity to encourage knowledge and understanding of agriculture in Vermont’s schools and communities. But where to start? We’re glad that you asked.

For nearly three decades, Chelsea Green’s books on food, gardening, and agriculture have been staples for any literate locavore’s bookshelf. Here are some of our recent additions to our long list of titles that will help deepen your knowledge and expand your skills.

Start with The Organic Seed Grower and The Organic Grain Grower–complete guides on cultivating from the ground up. These books provide in-depth, how-to techniques from two longtime experts, John Navazio and Jack Lazor.

If it’s a holistic and whole systems approach you’re looking for — check out Ben Falk’s The Resilient Farm & Homestead , or Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener.

If you’re more of a visual learner than be sure to check out Holistic Orcharding with Michael Phillips DVD for a dose of inspiration. Michael explains how to care for your orchard in every season.

Finish your journey to the agricultural book world with Market Farming Success, Gaia’s Garden, and Rebuilding the Foodshed.

Of course, no bookshelf is complete without one of Eliot Coleman’s books: The New Organic Grower is a perennial favorite of newcomers and old-timers alike, as is his full-color book, The Winter Harvest Handbook.

These books are sure to increase your agricultural literacy, as well as the literacy of your friends, family, and neighbors. Be sure to share the your knowledge.

How do you think we should be celebrating Agriculture Literacy Week? Share your ideas with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Happy Agricultural Literacy Week from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing!

Seed Diversity: The “Other Currency” Required for Food Security

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Below is an article that recently ran on Grist.org by author Gary Nabhan, who’s recent Chelsea Green book is Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land.

Earlier this year, Gary penned a popular Opinion piece in The New York Times (Our Coming Food Crisis, and was later featured on Tom Ashbrook’s NPR program, OnPoint examining the impact of the extended drought and changing climates on food and agriculture.

In this piece Nabhan looks more specifically at the growing rise in seed saving and non-GMO seed plantings and the decline in Monsanto’s global sales. A promising trend?

Below is the full piece, and you can go over to Grist and weigh in with comments there.

———

It is puzzling that Monsanto’s Vice President Robert Fraley recently became one of the recipients of the World Food Prize for providing GMO seeds to combat the effects of climate change, just weeks after Monsanto itself reported a $264 million loss this quarter because of a decline in interest and plummeting sales in its genetically-engineered “climate-ready” seeds. And since Fraley received his award, the production of GMO corn has been formally banned by Mexico, undoubtedly seen as one of Monsanto’s major potential markets.

The World Food Prize, offered each year on World Food Day, is supposed to underscore the humanitarian importance of viable strategies to provide a sustainable and nutritious food supply to the billions of hungry and food-insecure people on this planet. Ironically, what is engaging widespread public involvement in achieving this goal is not Monsanto’s GMOs, but the great diversity of farmer-selected and heirloom seeds in many communities. Why? Because such food biodiversity may be the most prudent “bet-hedging” strategy for dealing with food insecurity and climate uncertainty.

Consumer demand in the U.S. has never been stronger for a diversity of seeds and other planting stock of heirloom and farmer-selected food crops, as well as for wild native seeds. One of the many indicators that the public wants alternatives to Monsanto is that more than 150 community-controlled seed libraries have emerged across the country during the last five years. And over the last quarter century, those who voluntarily exchange seeds of heirloom and farmer-selected varieties of vegetables, fruits, and grains have increased the diversity of their offerings fourfold, from roughly 5000 to more than 20,000 plant selections.  During the same timeframe, the number of non-GMO, non-hybrid food crop varieties offered by seed catalogs, nurseries, and websites has increased from roughly 5000 to more than 8500 distinctive varieties.

And yet, these grassroots efforts and consumer demand are largely being overlooked by both governments and most philanthropic foundations engaged in fighting hunger and enhancing human health. Even prior to the partial U.S. government shutdown, federal support for maintaining seed diversity for food justice, landscape resilience, and ecosystems services had begun to falter. Budget cuts have crippled USDA crop resource conservation efforts and the budgets for nine of the twenty-nine remaining NRCS Plant Materials Centers are reportedly on the chopping block. As accomplished curators of vegetable, fruit, and grain diversity retire from federal and state institutions, they are seldom replaced, leaving several historically important collections at risk.

It is as if Washington politicians and bureaucrats were failing to recognize a simple fact that more than 68 million American households of gardeners, farmers, and ranchers clearly understand: seed diversity is as much a “currency” necessary for ensuring food security and economic well-being as money. These households spend on average hundreds of dollars each year purchasing a variety of seeds, seedlings, and fruit trees because of their concern for the nutritive value, flavor, and the quality of food they put in their bodies. While it should be obvious that, without seeds, much of the food we eat can’t be grown, few pundits recognize a corollary to that “food rule.” Without a diversity of seeds to keep variety in our grocery stores and farmers markets, those who are most nutritionally at risk would have difficulty gaining access to a full range of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics required to keep them healthy.

However, despite what portions of the government and agribusiness don’t seem to fathom, consumer involvement in recovering access to diverse seed stocks since the economic downturn began in 2008 has been nothing short of miraculous. Some call it the “Victory Garden effect,” in that unemployed and underemployed people are spending more time tending and harvesting their own food from home orchards and community gardens than they have in previous decades. Public involvement in growing food has increased for the sixth straight year, according to the National Gardening Association. But even financially strapped gardeners are not shirking from using their limited resources to purchase quality seeds of heirloom and farmer-selected vegetables. The Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa reports that its sales of seed packets have nearly doubled over the last five years. Another non-profit focused on heirloom and wild-native seeds—Native Seeds/SEARCH of Tucson—saw its seed sales triple since the end of 2009. And there are between 300 and 400 other small seed companies supported by consumers in the U.S. that offer seeds by mail-order, by placing seed packets racks in nurseries and groceries, or via on the internet.

Nevertheless, the U.S. may now be approaching the largest shortfall in the availability of native and weed-free seed at any time in our history due to recent climate-related catastrophes scouring our croplands, pastures, and forests. While a few large corporations focus on a few varieties of corn, soy, and other commodity crops, there is unprecedented demand for diverse seeds to be used for a great variety of human and environmental uses in this country, and elsewhere.

It has become painfully clear that America needs to recruit and support a whole new cohort of dedicated women and men to manage seed growouts, nurseries, and on-farm breeding and crop selection efforts for the public good. To further evaluate crop varieties for their capacity to adapt to climate change, we will certainly need many more participants in such endeavors than a charismatic Johnny Appleseed or two. They must stand ready to harvest, grow, monitor, select, and store a diversity of seeds for a diversity of needs in advance of forthcoming catastrophes. And they must value acquiring and maintaining a diversity of seedstocks, much as a wise investor relies on a diversified investment portfolio. Diverse and adapted seeds are literally the foundation of our food security infrastructure. Without them, the rest is a house of cards.

Fortunately, courageous efforts have been initiated to rebuild America’s seed “caring capacity.” The collaborative effort known as Seeds of Success, which is part of an interagency Native Plant Materials Development Program, has trained dozens of young people at the Chicago Botanic Garden to collect seeds of hundreds of native species over the last few years. In the non-profit sector, Bill McDorman of Native Seeds/SEARCH has organized six week-long Seed Schools around the country that have trained more than 330 gardeners and farmers to be seed entrepreneurs.

Elsewhere, Daniel Bowman Simon, now a graduate student at Columbia University, has helped hundreds of low-income households (eligible for USDA Food and Nutrition Program assistance) to use their “SNAP” benefits to purchase diverse seeds and seedlings of food crops at farmers markets in order to produce not just one meal, but many. In light of recent unjustified critiques of the SNAP program during Farm Bill debates, it is surprising that fiscal conservatives did not acknowledge how providing financially strapped families with seedstock may be one of the most cost-effective means of reducing food insecurity over the long haul. It is tangibly giving the poor the “means to fish” rather than a single meal of a fish. With more than 8150 farmers markets in the U.S. today, compared to 1775 in 1994, the potential for this seed dissemination strategy to help meet the nutritional needs of the poorest of the poor has never been greater.

Regardless of whether U.S. states ever require GMO labeling or ban GMOs entirely as Mexico has done, there is abundant evidence that we need to shift public investment–from subsiding market control by just a few “silver bullet” plant varieties, whether genetically engineered or not, to supporting the rediversification of America’s farms and tables with thousands of seedstocks and fruit selections. Instead of spending a projected forty to one hundred million dollars on developing, patenting, and licensing a single GMO, perhaps we should be annually redirecting that much public support toward further replenishing the diversity found in our seed catalogs, nurseries, fields, orchards, pastures, and plates. With growing evidence of the devastating effects of climate uncertainty, now is not the time to put all of our seeds into one basket.

Photo Credit: jaroslavd

Learn to Productively Peddle Your Produce

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Growing high quality food is an obvious top priority for farmers and gardeners, but selling and marketing that food effectively is often overlooked.

In the revised and expanded Chelsea Green edition of Market Farming SuccessGrowing for Market author Lynn Byczynski offers advice to those who want to grow and sell their food in an increasingly competitive market. Based on decades of her own experience as a market farmer herself, Byczynski provides practical insight that will help many farmers avoid costly mistakes.

“This book will introduce you to aspects of commercial growing that differ from backyard gardening,” writes Byczynski in the Introduction. “It will give you the language of market farming, and explain the terms that you are expected to know.”

Byczynski discusses which crops bring in the most money, essential tools and equipment, how to keep records to maximize profits and minimize taxes, organic practices, techniques, certification, and more.

“We succeed at working this good land by having the savvy to sell what we grow. No one offers better insights to do just that than Lynn Byczynski,” writes Michael Phillips, owner of Heartsong Farm and author of The Apple Grower. “The marketing side of growing food needs attention as much as soil prep. Market Farming Success doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to launching your hopes onto the local food scene.”

Market Farming Success, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Business of Growing and Selling Local Food is available now and on sale for 35% off until October 30. Read the introduction below.

Permaculture Special SALE: 35% Off

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Rain barrels, bee hives, herb spirals, and companion garden—these are all projects that you can start planning now as a way to add a permaculture twist to next year’s garden design.

The concept of permaculture is simple: Pay attention to natural systems and work with them to improve soil health and create edible landscapes.

Chelsea Green has been the go-to publisher for key permaculture books for nearly thirty years and to help get you started, or expand your permaculture knowledge, we’ve put a selection of our best permaculture books on sale until October 30th. 

The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach

The Resilient Farm and Homestead

Retail: $40.00
Sale: $26.00

This book will be essential reading for the serious prepper as well as for everyone interested in creating a more resilient lifestyle or landscape.”—Carol Deppe, author, The Resilient Gardener 

The Resilient Farm and Homestead will inspire would-be homesteaders everywhere, but will resonate especially with those who find themselves with “unlikely” farming land. 

Ben Falk demonstrates what can be done by imitating natural systems. His wide array of fruit trees, rice paddies, ducks, and earth-inspired buildings is a hopeful image for the future of regenerative agriculture and modern homesteading. 

Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City

Paradise Lot

Retail: $19.95
Sale: $12.97

“As a memoir of a purposeful life, Toensmeier’s work is engaging, honest, and natural. As a directive to other gardeners eager to establish natural ecosystems in unlikely settings, his work is instructive, illuminating, and inspirational.”—Booklist

In Paradise Lot, Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates explain the story behind the creation of their “permaculture paradise” of more than two hundred low-maintenance edible plants in an innovative food forest on a small city lot.

The garden—intended to function like a natural ecosystem with the plants themselves providing most of the garden’s needs for fertility, pest control, and weed suppression—also features an edible water garden, a year-round unheated greenhouse, tropical crops, urban poultry, and even silkworms. 

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture 

Gaia's Garden

Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47

“Gaia’s Garden is simply the best permaculture book ever written, and is in the running for best gardening book ever written. No one should be without it.” —Sharon Astyk, author of Depletion and Abundance

Gaia’s Garden is the book that continues to spark the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with Nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens.

Whatever size yard or garden you have to work with, Toby Hemenway shows how you can apply basic permaculture principles to make it more diverse, more natural, more productive, and more beautiful. 

Permaculture Special: 35% Off until October 30th

Edible Forest Gardens

 Retail: $150.00

Sale: $97.50

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

 Retail: $29.95

Sale: $19.47

Permaculture in Pots

 Retail: $14.95

Sale: $9.72

The Resilient Gardener

 Retail: $29.95

Sale: $19.47

Sowing Seeds in the Desert

 Retail: $15.95

Sale: $10.37

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond

 Retail: $39.95

Sale: $25.97

Sepp Holzer's Permaculture

 Retail: $29.95

Sale: $19.47

Perennial Vegetables

 Retail: $35.00

Sale: $22.75

The Woodland Way

 Retail: $29.95

Sale: $19.47

Desert or Paradise

 Retail: $29.95

Sale: $19.47

Permaculture

 Retail: $30.00

Sale: $19.50

The Earth User's Guide to Teaching Permaculture

 Retail: $29.95

Sale: $19.47

Whole-Farm Planning

 Retail: $12.95

Sale: $8.42

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock

 Retail: $39.95

Sale: $25.97

Food Not Lawns

 Retail: $25.00

Sale: $16.25

People and Permaculture

 Retail: $34.95

Sale: $22.72

The Basics of Permaculture Design

 Retail: $25.00

Sale: $16.25

Permaculture Design

 Retail: $24.95

Sale: $16.22

Permaculture Pioneers

 Retail: $24.95

Sale: $16.22

The Transition Companion

 Retail: $29.95

Sale: $19.47

Holistic Orcharding with Michael Phillips DVD

 Retail: $49.95

Sale: $32.47

Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (DVD) - See more at: http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/perennial_vegetable_gardening_with_eric_toensmeier_dvd:dvd#sthash.unEmjxIc.dpuf

 Retail: $29.95

Sale: $19.47

Natural Beekeeping with Ross Conrad (DVD)

 Retail: $24.95

Sale: $16.22

Top-Bar Beekeeping with Les Crowder and Heather Harrell (DVD) - See more at: http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/topbar_beekeeping_with_les_crowder_and_heather_harrell_dvd:dvd#sthash.WVCvZc9R.dpuf

 Retail: $14.95

Sale: $9.72


 

Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our booksalready on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only)

 



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Presenting our Newest Paperbacks

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Our latest paperback releases will help you form a deep connection with the land around you and cultivate its flavors so you can eat in season. Rediscover old favorites with the softcover editions of Wild Flavors, Cooking Close to Home, and Sowing Seeds in the Desert. Your bookshelf will thank you.

Wild Flavors: One Chef’s Transformative Year Cooking from Eva’s Farm by Didi Emmons


Wild Flavors is a down-to-earth book rich in ideas and inspiration for people seeking to eat from their gardens and local areas. It’s filled with mouth-watering recipes and valuable cultivation, shopping, and storage tips.” – Sandor Ellix Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation

Alongside unique seasonal offerings, author and chef Didi Emmons provides profiles and tips on forty-six uncommon plants and shares celebrated farmer Eva Sommaripa’s wisdom about staying connected and maintaining a sane and healthy lifestyle in an increasingly hectic world.

Curiosity sparked Emmons’ initial venture down the Massachusetts coast to meet Sommaripa, whose 200-plus uncommon herbs, greens, and edible “weeds” supply many top Northeastern chefs. Wild Flavors follows Didi through a year in Eva’s garden and offers both the warmth of their shared tales as well as the exquisite foods Didi came to develop using only the freshest of ingredients and wild edibles.

Cooking Close to Home: A Year of Seasonal Recipes by Diane Imrie and Richard Jarmusz


“This is a cookbook for the future—in the world we’re building, where local food means both security and pleasure, this will be a companion for many a pioneer!” – Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

Eating locally is becoming a priority to people everywhere, but preparing local food throughout the four seasons can be a culinary challenge. Common questions like, “how can I eat locally in January?” or “how do I prepare what my CSA provides?” can confront even the most committed locavore. Cooking Close to Home is a seasonal guide that will inspire you to create delicious and nutritious meals with ingredients produced in your own community. Award-winning chef Richard Jarmusz and registered dietitian Diane Imrie make the ideal partners to stimulate your creativity in the kitchen, teaching you how to prepare fabulous local foods without ever sacrificing flavor for nutrition.

Sowing Seeds in the Desert: Natural Farming, Global Restoration, and Ultimate Food Security by Masanobu Fukuoka


Sowing Seeds in the Desert will persuade readers that the imperiled living world is our greatest teacher, and inspire them to care for it as vigorously as Fukuoka has.” – Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden

Sowing Seeds in the Desert is Masanobu Fukuoka’s last major work—and perhaps his most important. After the publication of his best-known work, One-Straw Revolution, Fukuoka spent years working with people and organizations around the world to prove that food can be grown and forests regenerated, with very little irrigation, even in the most desolate of places. Sowing Seeds in the Desert follows Fukuoka’s efforts to rehabilitate the deserts of the world using natural farming, to feed a growing human population, rehabilitate damaged landscapes, reverse the spread of deserts, and encourage a deep understanding of the relations.

Wild Flavors, Cooking Close to Home, and Sowing Seeds in the Desert are available now and on sale for 35% off until October 14.

Eliot Coleman: Creating a Root Cellar

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

As we enter into autumn, the gardening locavore starts assessing her stock of pickled beans, dried herbs, and preserved fruits. But what about the potatoes, beets, turnips, carrots? What’s a gardener to do with those when the thermometer drops?

Most homesteaders opt for the simple solution of a root cellar. Eliot Coleman, a successful farmer in Maine, weighs in with some tips for building one below.

The following is an excerpt from Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables From Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman. It has been adapted for the Web.

No one wants second best. A slimy cabbage from a dingy corner of the basement will never compete with the crisp specimens on the vegetable shelf of the supermarket. Wilted, dried-out carrots look unappealing next to the crunchy, plastic-wrapped beauties in the refrigerator. When home storage is unsuccessful, a case can be made for artificial refrigeration. But the cabbage need not be slimy nor the carrots wilted. A properly constructed root cellar does not take a backseat to any other method of food storage. It is no great feat to manage a simple underground root cellar so that the produce will be equal or superior in quality to anything stored in an artificially refrigerated unit, even after long periods of storage.

A successful root cellar should be properly located, structurally sound, weather tight, convenient to fill and empty, easy to check on and clean, and secure against rodents. Proper location means underground at a sufficient depth so frost won’t penetrate. The cellar should be structurally sound so it won’t collapse on you. It needs to be weather tight so cold winds can’t blow in and freeze the produce. You need to have easy access to fill it, to use the produce, and to clean it at the end of the winter. And it should be rodent-proof so all the food you have stored away won’t be nibbled by rats and mice.

Provision must be made for drainage as with any other cellar, and the cellar should be insulated so that it can maintain a low temperature for as long as possible and provide properly humid storage conditions. Finally, microclimates within the cellar (colder near the floor, warmer near the ceiling) should allow you to meet different temperature and moisture requirements for different crops. The cellar will be most successful if it incorporates your underground food storage needs into one efficient, compact unit. It’s surprising how easily a hole in the ground meets all those conditions.

Any house with a basement already has a potential root cellar. You just need to open a vent so cold air can flow in on fall nights, and sprinkle water on the floor for moisture. The temperature control in the root cellar is almost automatic because cold air, which is heavier than warm air, will flow down, displacing the warmer air, which rises and exits. This lowers the temperature in the cellar incrementally as fall progresses and the nights get cooler. By the time outdoor conditions are cold enough to require moving root crops to the cellar (around October 21 to November 7 here in Maine), conditions in the underground garden are just right-cool and moist. With minimal attention, they will stay that way until late the next spring.

No wood or other material that might suffer from being wet should be used in root cellar construction. The ideal root cellar is made of concrete or stone with rigid insulation around the outside. Any permanent wood in a root cellar soon becomes damp and moldy. Wood will not only rot but also will serve as a home for bacteria and spoilage organisms and is subject to the gnawing entry of rodents. The stone or concrete cellar is impregnable. It won’t rot or decompose, and the thick walls hold the cool of the earth.

The easiest way to make a root cellar is to wall off one corner of the basement as a separate room. The best material is concrete block. There is no problem even if the rest of the basement is heated. You simply need to insulate one temperature zone from the other. Leave enough space between the top of the walls and the joists of the floor above so you can install a cement-board ceiling with rigid insulation above it. Also attach rigid insulation to the heated side of the cellar walls you build. The insulation can be protected with a concrete-like covering such as Block Bond. Install an insulated metal door for access, and the structure is complete.

There are several simpler options, especially for storing small quantities of vegetables. If your house has an old-fashioned cellar with a dirt floor and there is enough drainage below floor level, you can dig a pit in the floor 18 to 24 inches deep, line it with concrete blocks, and add an insulated cover. You will want to open the cover every few days to encourage air exchange in the pit. The pit won’t be as easy to use as a room you can walk into, but like any hole in the ground, it should keep root crops cool and moist. In warmer climates, you can use similar pits or buried barrels for storage either outdoors or in an unheated shed.

One of the simplest techniques we ever used, before we had a root cellar, was to dig pits in one section of the winter greenhouse. In that case we used metal garbage cans and buried them to their edge in the soil under the inner layer. To make sure they stayed cool we insulated their lids. We filled those cans with all the traditional root crops after their late fall harvest. Our whole winter food supply that year was in one central spot and when we went out to harvest fresh spinach and scallions for dinner we would bring back stored potatoes and cabbage at the same time.

Preserving and Conserving: 35% Off

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

As we harvest (and feast upon) the late summer, autumn fruits – it’s also time to preserve those flavors so they can be enjoyed throughout the winter.

To better enjoy the fruits of your labor, we’re offering a 35% discount on select books on drying, canning, and preserving food.

Below are a few easy, DIY recipes for building drying trays, and drying some fruit that can be easily foraged, or found close to home. Follow additional links below to even more books, resources, and savings.

Happy preserving from your fruitful friends at Chelsea Green Publishing

Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Easy-to-Make Drying Trays

Ever want to dry your own food, but didn’t want to buy a dehydrator? How about simple, DIY food trays?

Food is usually dried on a flat surface, such as a tray or screen, using a natural or artificial heat source. Trays should be placed in a dry, well-ventilated spot, generally out of the direct sun, or in specially designed solar dryers.

Drying trays are easy to make, and our friends from Centre Terre Vivante have two simple designs anyone can buildGet the Design »»


Wild Flavors: Choen’s Autumn Olive Fruit Leather

Autumn olive was first cultivated in United States in the 1800s, but don’t let the name mislead you. These shrubs grow berries, not olives, but their leaves resemble olive leaves. The berries appear in midfall and remain for six to eight weeks, offering a complex mix of tart and sweet flavors, intensifying in sweetness steadily from October through November.

Chef and author Didi Emmons explains how to make fruit leather from this foraged fruit. Get the Recipe »»

Resilient Gardener: Drying Prune Plums (and Figs, Apricots, Peaches and Nectarines)

Apples aren’t the only fruit to be picked in the fall. Prune plums, figs, apricots, peaches, and nectarines are also abundant (depending on where you live).

Resilient gardener Carol Deppe shares her favorite ways to collect and dry some of the various (non-apple) fruits in her backyard. Put those drying trays to good use! Get the Recipe »»

 

     
 
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per inceptos himenaeos.

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Is Cider the New Craft Beer?

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Autumn is arriving. And with it comes an abundance of everyone’s favorite fall crop—apples.

An increasingly popular, and mouth-watering, approach to handling the overflow of orchard-fresh apples is to make a batch—or five—of hard cider.

Claude Jolicoeur’s The New Cider Maker’s Handbook is the orchard-to-bottle book that amateur cider makers have been waiting to read. Jolicoeur guides cider makers through every step of the cider making process and provides in-depth direction for the more experienced craftsperson. “The book is really the book I wish I had had when I started to gain interest in cider making and wanted to know more,” writes Jolicoeur in the book’s preface.

“The last two years…have seen a surge in artisan producers bent on resurrecting the region’s centuries-old cider-making tradition,” writes Corin Hirsch in Seven Days. “Sales of U.S. hard ciders have tripled since 2007 — to roughly $600 million last year, according to market-analyst firm IBISWorld. For the first time since the 1800s, cider makers are a force to be reckoned with.”

The New Cider Maker’s Handbook is broken down into five parts: Basic principles of cider making; instruction on obtaining the best possible apples; how to extract juice from apple; properties of the apple juice itself; and, the actual fermentation and transformation that turns apples into cider.

“Cider has greater visibility in this country than at any time in the past 100 to 150 years, and is growing fast as a category,” says Ben Watson, Chelsea Green senior editor and author of Cider, Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own (Countryman Press, 1999). “The modern cider renaissance is spurring an interest in more distinctive, higher quality products now, made by small to medium-size cider makers. In this sense, cider’s rebirth mirrors the phenomenally successful craft beer movement. Claude Jolicoeur is a passionate cider maker who has mastered his craft both through his own experience and research, and from advice gleaned from craft producers and experts around the world. His book is the most useful one on the subject to be published in America in the past century.”

Whether you’re an orchardist, a cider connoisseur, or a novice apple-lover, The New Cider Maker’s Handbook is the definitive guide your bookshelf is begging for.

“This is the book so many craft cider makers have been waiting for,” writes Dick Dunn, president of the Rocky Mountain Cider Association. “At once comprehensive, detailed, and authoritative. It really is ‘orchard to bottle,’ with both guidance and technical background all along the way.”

The New Cider Maker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for Craft Producers is available now and on sale for 35% off until September 23rd.

Read an excerpt from Part 1, The Basics of Cider Making, below:

The New Cider Maker’s Handbook: The Basics of Cider Making


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