Its winter, and if your like me you definitely appreciate and enjoy the heck out of every season. Some folks hate winter, but viewed as a respite and an opportunity to gain some perspective on life (because we aren’t so danged busy) its a great time of year to spend time with family and be thankful for the things we have. Sitting by the wood stove with a hot cup of chocolate and a good book aint so bad either! And if your in need of a good read please check out my book “Truths Blood”. As one commenter on Amazon stated “It’s a national conversation.” I’m in the process of writing the sequel but have also begun another book about my kayaking experiences in Idaho. This is what winter allows me to do – invest time in other endeavors while fully enjoying a little bit slower pace of life.
For a long time I’ve known that I’m a simple man who finds the greatest joy in life, the greatest satisfaction, in the most basic of things. No need to chase the latest and greatest when you can find full on satisfaction in the work of your own hands. Take a root cellar for example. A what? Yes, I can hear it now, most think its very old fashioned, but root cellars are as useful today as ever. Think not? Think again. With the cost of food being what it is and getting higher all the time, root cellars fit right up there with bicycles, wood heat, gardens and living well – independently. This is a perfect place for keeping cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes and for a while in the fall it will even help you get a few extra months out of the tomatoes you grew, by storing them where its cool.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not some dooms day, prepper kind of project I’ve undertaken. Quite simply root cellars have always worked incredibly well at storing food. Its just that simple. I worked on a number of farms back in the day and though root cellars were falling out of favor in the late 50’s and early 60’s as the rural west was electrified, some folks saw their value and continued using them. I always thought of it as a most ingenious way of storing food and have always been fascinated by it.
Digging a hole in the ground in central Oregon is a dumb idea really. Nothing but rock here, but I’ve managed to find a place where there was a pocket of soil that is allowing me to dig at least four feet deep. (I’m still digging) For an ol boy like myself, digging in temps of about 45 to 50 degrees is perfect. I’m digging a space that is 8 x 10. When finished it will be walled with cinder block and then I will push the soil back and mound it up against the rest of the wall that is above ground, probably a foot or so. Instead of building a door into the side of it and putting a roof on top I plan to build a shed on top of the cinder block walls and cut a door in the floor. I need more storage space for my bee equipment and we need a better way of storing all the food the garden produces, so what could be better than a shed/root cellar combination.
I should mention that for those of you who want an easier and less expensive version of a root cellar, find an old refrigerator or freezer someone is throwing out, gut it of motor and cooling parts and dig a hole to place it in the ground. Its already insulated and comes with a door. What more could you want for a small storage space.
I’ll continue working on the root cellar over the coming months, but bee season is approaching and I have some new ideas about how to deal with mites and the losses they cause. I have been purchasing and building new equipment so I can expand, probably even double, the number of hives I have this year. I simply cannot keep up with the demand for “clean” honey. Many folks don’t realize most of the honey they buy in the store is from China and cut with corn syrup. Others tell me they buy from local beekeepers. I’m always please to hear that as its important to support your local beeks, but when I ask them if they know if their beekeeper uses a miticide (basically an insecticide put in the hive to kill mites) they get a blank look on their faces. Later on, after asking the person they have been buying their honey from about the miticides, without exception they come away disappointed. Little did they know the honey they were buying came from a hive treated with chemicals to kill mites – as is all commercial honey. Once this little education process takes place I usually have a new customer. Thus the need to expand the number of hives I have. Two people have asked if I would locate hives at their rural homes and I will be expanding my operation to at least one of those.
Stay posted as the bee season will soon be upon us.
For the rest of you – have you put that dormant spray on your fruit trees yet? I have my first application on and this is the time of year to be doing it.