Feb 18, 2011

"Year to Year"
A bucket of last year's potatoes, still fresh and crisp from the root cellar in August with only the occasional small sprout,
 and a pot of this year's new potatoes, just dug from the garden.

We have a goal where all of our garden produce is concerned:
to make as many items as possible last from "year to year".
That means that we try to have no time lag between when we are finishing up from one year's supply and harvesting the next.
This year we did the best ever with that goal.

Every Spring it is the same....we try to get the seeds in and covered by the first week of June.  That way they are perking along in the newly tilled and fertilized soil but still have the protection of the fiberduk to keep the warmth in.

Meanwhile, the stainless steel work sink/counter is carried over from winter storage and put beside the pump house, scrubbed and ready for processing the earliest crops.

 The rhubarb is doing it's best to gallop ahead of our ability to keep up, the seed potatoes are being emptied into their slatted woodbeds for sprouting,
and we are racing to get the equipment up and in place for the haying to start.

The saft bottles that will hold all the fruit syrups for the year have to be taken out and sterilized, and since the cows are out for grazing the cheese and butter making begins in earnest.
                                                                                                                                                         Before we know it the fiberduk comes off, the salad rows are bursting, the carrots are up and thumb-sized, the well-sprouted seed potatoes are planted and their tender foliage is pushing it's way up through the earth beside the vävstuga (weaving house). We turn around and the first rows of spinach are ready for.....

Popeye's favorite food marks  the beginning of our actual harvest season which continues on from the first part of July until the end of October when the last fruits and vegetables are picked, then frozen, processed, pickled or stored.  The only exception to this is the rhubarb which runs the entire season and must be harvested, chopped and frozen for processing later.

Freezers such as this one hold beans (green and yellow), broccoli, cauliflower, cloudberries, currants (red and black), dill, kale, lingon, mangold, peas, rhubarb,  spinach and strawberries.

Our bumper crop of cabbages is  turned not only into traditional sauerkraut, but for the first time this year we tried freezer coleslaw. (Eaten half-frozen later in the year, Gustav pronounced it "tasty, but something like chewing rubber bands"). 

 All 140 pounds of the red and yellow onions, double the amount we planted last year, are braided down with twine and hung in netted bags to dry. 

 The carrots are unearthed, washed and topped, ready for the root cellar.

Coming closer to cold weather the potatoes come up with a chain mechanism behind the tractor that brings them to the surface where they can be hand-gathered, bagged and wheeled on over to the root cellar. 
On this particular day I was involved with the beets so Bo Anders came to help us with the potato gathering and bagging.  Pappa and Gustav dragged the loaded wagon over to the källarboden (root cellar).  You can see that it is chilly and they were working quickly against losing the light. A sure sign that winter is on it's way.

And last but not least to be harvested are the beets, shown here sorted into sizes...small for pickling, large for cooking. They were on the top of my duty roster that day from morning until evening.

We keep a record of the amounts we plant and what our yields are to adjust so as to make it through "year to year" with any given fruit or vegetable.

The rhubarb and fruits do double and triple duty being eaten fresh throughout the season, then baked in  cakes and cobblers, made into jams, jellies,
  and sparkling saft to last all winter long and beyond.

Luscious sylt and jeweled jellies line the window sills.   The sylts are eaten instead of sugar on the winter porridge at breakfast time, or baked into thumbprint cookies and other desserts. Red currant and mint jellies are accompaniments for meats and fish, and rhubarb jelly makes any biscuit or piece of toast a treat.

During the same time frame, from July through October, as the root cellar is being emptied, the shelves must all be removed, scrubbed, bleached and put back in again.  Then the brick floor and lower walls are scrubbed and by the middle to last of September the process of lowering the temperature in preparation for filling the cellar again begins.  Because the vegetables themselves give off heat, it takes several weeks of careful monitoring to make sure the environment is suitable.

We started this year in late September when the temperature was between 10 and 11 degrees celsius down there.  Every night the door is opened so the cold air will flow down.  Then in the morning it must be closed up tight until evening when it is opened again.  It will usually take about 12 to 14 days to get it to the 2 to 4 degree mark that is safe, sometimes a little longer depending on the rate of filling it with the new produce. 

Carrots, parsnips, turnips and beets can go in as well as pickled beets and sauerkraut, when the thermometer is below 8 degrees. And also the saft bottles, jams and jellies are fine to load down there since they retain the cold.
 The potatoes have to wait a little longer since there are so many of them.

This may be the quintessential representation of the harvest period on our farm. 
I came in one chilly day after a marathon of picking and sorting and clipping and cleaning and when I went to hang up my work jacket I looked down and there were two pieces of frozen rhubarb stuck to the bottom hem and a "pantihose" carrot falling out of the pocket. 

It is SUCH a busy time and SO MUCH WORK,
 but it is one that brings a tremendous sense of 
 as the root cellar people say.

Of all the crops listed in this post we have made it "year to year" with every one but the onions and the peas. 
 Our onions lasted until April last year so we planted double this past summer. We still have three full bags left so we'll see how we do. 
Our peas are always short because they are tricky to grow in this climate and we love them so much we eat them up quickly.

 The picture of the root cellar above was taken just as we were starting to fill it for the winter in the Fall of 2010. 
The flowers on the step were beginning to fade and the door was unhooked so we could carry in the large loads.

Today is the 18th of February 2011.
It is bitterly cold outside and there is an icy wind blowing.
But when we need a bucket of potatoes or carrots, or some ruby red currants to bake into our Äppelkaka (apple cake),  fresh vegetables for our stew or strawberries for our shortcakes,
we have them.

We are reaching our goal!

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