cotton in field

Brown cotton ready to harvest after the frost,

Fall is the best time to plan your garden for the coming year. If you manage cover crops with hand tools, like I do, when you plant them you need to carefully consider what goes in next. With this type of management, tilling them in anytime you choose is not an option. Some cover crops will be in the ground longer than others. That’s why, if you are going to grow cotton and flax in your garden, you need to plan for that now. Having a harvest of cotton and flax will open up a whole new world for you of growing your own textiles.

I wrote about cotton when I told you about my homegrown handspun cotton vest. Cotton needs long hot days to mature. Plant it after the last expected spring frost when you put in tomatoes. It will be in the ground until the first fall frost, and maybe a bit beyond, so plan for that, also. The varieties I grow are listed as 120-130 days to maturity, but it seems to take longer than that for the bolls to open.

red foliated cotton

Red Foliated cotton. Fiber is white.

I can transplant cotton into a mulch of rye and Austrian winter peas that has been cut when the rye is shedding pollen, which here in zone 7 is the first week in May. Cotton transplants would go in two weeks later, after the rye roots have had a chance to decay somewhat. If I wanted to plant closer to the last frost date, which is about April 25 here, the preceding cover crop would be Austrian winter peas, crimson clover, or hairy vetch. These legumes can easily be pulled out at that time and added to the compost pile. The soil will be ready for the transplants without waiting the two weeks. The pea, clover, and vetch plants could be cut and left in place as mulch; however, it would be a fast-disappearing mulch—much different than the rye mulch. The cotton plant in this photo has a mulch of grass clippings.

Flax, on the other hand, needs to be planted early in the season. Using Linen: From Flax Seed to Woven Cloth by Linda Heinrich as my reference, the time to plant flax seed is mid-March to early April when the soil is about 43-46°F (6-8°C). Planting in soil that is too cold will set you back. It will mature in about 90-100 days, so be prepared to harvest sometime in June or July, depending on your planting date.

As with any early spring crop, to be ready for flax, you would need to have a cover crop there that has winterkilled, such as oats or radish (oilseed or fodder). It is getting late to plant those crops now and have the best benefit. Late August into early September is the optimal time for that. You could plant Austrian winter peas now. Although it won’t have put on too much growth by the time the flax needs to go in, it would have put on some, and the plants could be pulled out for the compost. The easiest cover when anticipating early spring crops is to mulch the bed with leaves. That provides a good habitat for the earthworms over the winter, leaving you with friable soil in the spring. Pull the leaves off the bed about two weeks before the flax will go in to allow the sun to warm up the soil.

You will want to plant a variety of flax suitable for fiber production, which is different than varieties best for culinary uses. Flax for fiber is planted at close spacing so the plants grow straight without branching. The plants are pulled (not cut) for harvest before the seeds are mature, so if you want to have a seed harvest for fiber flax, plan for that in another spot. For mature seed the plants would be spaced farther apart to allow branching and the harvest would be about two weeks later than when the fiber harvest occurs.

I usually write about food production, but obviously my garden interests have broadened to include fiber. I believe that, just as people are concerned about where their food comes from now, sometime in the not so distant future, they will also be concerned about where their textiles come from. There are some pretty bad things going on within the globalized networks that bring us cheap clothes—way too many cheap clothes. If we want to be free of that, we would need to look for textiles closer to home, grown in a way that everyone and everything benefits—from the soil and the lowest paid worker to the consumer.

Red Foliated cotton blossom

Red Foliated White cotton blossom.

I don’t expect that all of you are going to start clothing yourselves from your gardens, but it could be fun to learn about the production of textiles from seed to garment. Just growing a little of it and learning how to process it can start the conversation with others about our present textile industry. From an historical point of view, growing cotton and flax in school gardens would definitely add to the curriculum. Besides that, it looks so good in the garden. Even if you can’t grow cotton in your area, you can probably grow flax. If you don’t grow it, you could buy the fiber and learn to spin it. Of course, that leads to learning to knit or weave it. The opportunity to learn new skills is boundless.

Maybe you are not ready for this, but you find it interesting. If you don’t have sewing skills yet, you could start your fiber journey there. Learn to sew and you will increase the production of your household. Besides learning to use the fabrics you buy (start inquiring about where they come from), you can bring new life to textiles that are finishing their first life, such as clothes, sheets, and towels, by turning them into something else.

unretted flax

Unretted flax from the Heirloom Seed Project at Landis Valley Farm and Museum.

Cotton is something I’ve already been growing, but 2016 will be the first year for flax in the garden. I’m not waiting to grow my own to start learning about it, though. I’ve bought flax fiber to spin into linen thread using a spindle and a spinning wheel. The results will be used for weaving. While we were in Pennsylvania recently we visited the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum. They grow flax there and have a textile barn dedicated to showing you how it was processed in the past. Unretted flax straw is available through their Heirloom Seed Project. I bought some and am learning about that, too. Right now it is laid out in the grass being dew retted. I’ll be writing about that one day.

So many fun things to do! If you want to join me on this fiber journey, plan now to plant cotton and/or flax in your garden for next year.homeplace earth

Plant Garlic This Fall

garlicFall is the time to plant garlic in your garden. Here in Zone 7 I plant garlic sometime during the last two weeks of October. I like to have my cover crops and garlic in by November 1. According to Pam Dawling in Sustainable Market Farming, a guideline for planting garlic is when the soil temperature is 50° F (10° C) at four inches deep at 9am. She plants it in early November and, if anything, where she lives is a slight bit cooler than where I am.

So, there is no real rush to get it in the ground but, in areas with cold winters, according to Dawling, you would want to have it in the ground no later than 2-3 weeks after the first fall frost and before the ground freezes for the winter. Here in Virginia the ground fluctuates between freezing and thawing throughout the winter. Garlic sprouts in my garden in the fall and the tops will grow whenever the temperature is above 40°F (4.5°C). In colder areas the tops might not emerge until late winter, but the roots will be established from the fall planting. Mulch with leaves when you plant and you will have little tending to do until harvest. The garlic will grow right up through the mulch. If you don’t mulch, you will need to keep the bed weeded.

Garlic ready to harvest.

Garlic ready to harvest.

What you will be planting are the individual cloves. When you buy garlic you are buying it as bulbs. Softneck garlic, the kind you see in the grocery store, has about 10-12 cloves per bulb. The cloves in the middle of the bulb are smaller than the outside ones. Hardneck garlic has fewer (6-7), but larger cloves. Compared to the hardneck varieties, softneck garlic keeps in storage longer and is easier to braid. Each clove that you plant will grow into a bulb.

If you are excited about your garlic in the spring and pull some up in early April to see how it is doing, it is important to know that the plants don’t divide into cloves to form the bulb until about 30 days before harvest. In early April you will only find one large clove. Garlic harvest here is in early June.

garlic planting

Garlic cloves set out on 6″ centers ready for planting.

According to the Master Charts in How to Grow More Vegetables, garlic cloves should be planted 4” apart in an hexagonal pattern in the bed. I think that is a little close and prefer 6” spacing using that pattern. Years ago I planted a whole bed at 4” centers and made careful notes. I found that the garlic on the outside edge of the bed was larger than the harvest from the middle; with that on the south side larger than the bulbs on the north side. The garlic harvested from the inside of the bed was smaller planted at 4” centers. That might be so to some extent with the 6” centers, also, but not as much as when planted at 4”. Plant about 2” deep—a little deeper in the  north.

When I harvest garlic I find myself thinking that maybe I will plant garlic only in the perimeter of a bed in the fall, leaving the middle for a spring crop, such as cabbage or potatoes that would be harvested with the garlic in June and see if all my harvest is the largest bulbs. But then I get busy and forget and plant garlic as usual, filling the bed in the fall. Dawling plants in rows with 5” spacing within the rows and 8-10” between the rows.

Now that you know how to plant it, you need to know why. Garlic should be a regular part of your diet because it is so healthy for you. I’ll use information from Dr. James Duke’s The Green Pharmacy as the reference for my health claims here. According to Dr. Duke, garlic:

  • thins the blood, making it good for reducing the risk of blood clots and controlling high blood pressure. (If you are already taking blood thinners, consult your doctor before significantly increasing your garlic intake.)
  • reduces high cholesterol
  • lowers blood pressure
  • has antibiotic properties
  • has antiviral properties—helps fight cold viruses
  • helps control blood sugar levels– beneficial to diabetics

I could go on, but you get the idea. You need to be eating garlic. Years ago when I was selling produce at the Ashland Farmers Market I met Mrs. Virginia Shelton when she was in her 90’s. She was still driving her car and she told me she was on no medication except for the J.C. pill—just ask her pastor she said. Besides her participation in church, she credited her longevity and health to eating garlic every day. Well, no one lives forever and Mrs. Shelton is no exception. She passed last year, one week shy of her 109th birthday. She gave up driving at 99, but still lived independently until eight months before her passing.

I feel fortunate to have met Mrs. Shelton and for her to tell me about her garlic consumption. Once you harvest garlic you can save a portion to plant for the next fall. If you haven’t planted it before, you will need to get it somewhere. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is a good source although, depending on where you live, you might find a source a little closer to home. I suppose if time is running out and you haven’t ordered any, you could always plant what you can get at the grocery store and see what happens. Life is an adventure, you know. Happy planting!homeplace earth

A Visit to Monticello

Cindy and Mr JeffersonI had the good fortune to be invited to visit Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, to speak at the Heritage Harvest Festival on September 11 & 12. There were lectures going on both days, but Saturday was the biggest day with booths on the mountaintop. I had a booth for Homeplace Earth and Thomas Jefferson himself stopped by! Seeds were an important part of Monticello when it was a working plantation but, as you know, there is always something new to learn, so he had bought a copy of Seed Libraries at the visitors center to catch up. Mr. Jefferson was delighted to actually meet me in his backyard. Since he had planned to give a copy of my book as a gift, he bought another copy for me to sign to him. When he suggested I sign it to Mr. Jefferson, I said I might have signed it to T.J., which is how those of us in the region affectionately refer to him. He said go with T.J. We had a nice chat and I thanked him for having us all over to his place.

That same day a woman came by and said she had been gardening for 30 years and wanted to know what I had to say that she didn’t already know. I told her about my work and my book Grow a Sustainable Diet. She bought a copy, along with my cover crop DVD. A gentleman who attended my Grow a Sustainable Diet talk has been an avid organic gardener since he was 23. He is now 70 and he told me that, even after 47 years of experience, he learned a lot from my talk. Yep, there is always more to learn.

I met a woman from Indiana who had been coming to the Heritage Harvest Festival for four years (not consecutively) with two friends. They were there for both days and had talked the whole trip about what they were going to learn. One of the highlights for her was my Seed Libraries talk. She belongs to an organic gardening group which will most likely partner with their local library to start a seed library. I also talked with someone who had come from Tennessee. This is a popular event for people in the region, but each year I meet people who come from afar just to attend. It is their destination for a learning vacation.

MENFairLogoSeptember is a busy month around here. Corn, cowpeas, and other dried beans are being harvested (sweet potatoes will be dug in October) and cover crops will go in soon. However, first I’ll be heading up to Seven Springs in Pennsylvania to the Mother Earth News Fair, which will take place this coming weekend, Friday through Sunday. My talks there are Grow a Sustainable Diet, Seed Libraries, and Managing Cover Crops With Hand Tools. I love sharing what I do with others at these events and through my DVDs and books. It is great having the opportunity to interact with so many people face-to-face to exchange ideas. I always learn something new through these encounters myself.

See you at Seven Springs, or the Mother Earth News Fair in Kansas in Octobhomeplace earther!

garden clipboard and veggies

I hope you have been making notes from your garden and your kitchen about what you have been growing and eating this summer. Being able to eat as much of a meal as you can from what you have produced is a feeling of accomplishment. Even if you don’t grow everything you eat, supplementing your meals with items from local growers can give you the same good feeling. It is very satisfying to sit down to a meal and know where everything came from and how it was grown.

If you are striving to produce meals with only (or mostly) homegrown ingredients, what would you have to provide, in addition to what you already grow, to make that happen? For example, you could make sure the ingredients for salsa or spaghetti sauce are in your garden plan. In my Homegrown Friday posts you can read how I only consumed what I’d grown for the Fridays in Lent. If you run out of ingredients in your favorite dishes long before next year’s crop comes in, plan now to plant more if space allows.

I know that garden space is at a premium for many and that careful choices need to be made. In that case, think of local growers as an extension of your garden. Whatever they can supply in abundance is something you can take off the list for your garden if you have limited room. You could devote your garden space to the things you love that there is never enough of at the local markets, whether it is sugar snap peas, potatoes, or a special winter squash. Maybe you want to eat from your garden all winter. Those crops need to be planned for, since they will be planted while the traditional summer crops are still in the ground. You will find a three-bed plan for winter eating in my post Winter Food Crop Rotation.

cover crops in late winter

Cover crops in late winter.

Now is the time to be planning for next year because as the summer crops fade away and space opens up, cover crops need to be planted. Which cover crop to plant in each bed is determined by what crop will follow next year. If you are managing cover crops with hand tools, as I advocate, the cover crops have to be finished before the next crop goes in. By finished I mean winterkilled, cut at the proper time to lie down as mulch or compost material, or harvested at the end of its life cycle. A handout that will help you with cover crop decisions is available as a free download on the resource page on my website. In Grow a Sustainable Diet there are sample garden maps showing how to include cover crops in your rotations, the reasoning behind the cover crop choices, and thoughts on what other choices could be made. Getting cover crops planted this fall is your first step to having a great garden in 2016, as long as they are planned with the next crop in mind.

Mississippi Silver cowpeas ready to harvest for dry beans.

Mississippi Silver cowpeas ready to harvest for dry beans.

Just so you know, the perfect garden plan doesn’t exist. You will always be changing it as new ideas come your way. Also, the weather has a way of encouraging gardeners like us to look at new varieties and new crops to add to our plans. Cowpeas came to be part of my garden after a couple years of serious drought. I put my mind to what grows well in dry times here in the mid-Atlantic region and came up with cowpeas, sometimes known as Southern peas. That first year with the cowpeas was another dry one and they did great. Don’t you know, the following year was the wettest year I have ever experienced. The cowpeas did great then, also, and have been part of my garden ever since. I save seed each year, ensuring I will have adequate seed for next year that is already acclimated to my garden, no matter what the weather brings.

If eating a substantial part of your diet from your garden and local sources is a goal for you, participating in the 10-Day Local Food Challenge can be a gauge to measure how far you have come. The formal challenge is taking place October 1-10, but you could determine any days to be your challenge. The formal challenge suggests you eat food grown within 100 miles for 10 days. Acknowledging that humans have been trading for eons, 10 exotics are allowed to augment your local/homegrown diet. The exotics are things not grown within the 100 mile limit. So, if you really can’t exist without coffee and chocolate you can include them in your exotics while you think about weaning yourself off of them a bit. Maybe you could experiment with herb teas from your garden rather than having another cup of coffee. I don’t have any suggestions for the chocolate other than to experience all the flavors you can from your garden, which will fill your belly and your soul, lessening the need for something like chocolate.homeplace earth

salsa ingredients for one batchWhen I was first learning to can back in the 1970’s salsa was not on my radar at all. That might be because the canning books I followed didn’t have any recipes for it. Fast forward to the 21st century and there are lots of salsa recipes in the canning books. Salsa is a form of relish and is as easy to make as pickles. It does require some chopping, which I do with a knife; although some people prefer to use a food processor. I can salsa for use later and include vinegar, as you would for other relishes. Recipes for salsa to consume fresh might not include vinegar.

salsa ingredients-choppedThe recipe I use is for Zesty Salsa that I found in the Ball Blue Book from 1998. You can find the same recipe here. The main ingredients are tomatoes, peppers, and onions which I have in my garden. The vegetables you see in the first photo are the ones shown chopped in the second photo—all of which made the 6 pints of salsa in the last photo. Besides tomatoes, peppers, and onions, the recipe calls for cider vinegar, garlic, cilantro, salt, and hot pepper sauce (optional). I always have garlic available from my garden. Instead of cilantro, which I don’t grow, I used celery leaves and parsley from my garden. One of the reasons I like making salsa is that it is so colorful when you have everything chopped up together.

Although the recipe includes both green sweet peppers and hot peppers, I am not into hot so I used sweet peppers only and no hot sauce, although I have added some mildly hot peppers in the past. You have to be careful with canning recipes. You can sometimes make substitutions, but you need to do them wisely. The salsa was canned in a hot water bath which is used for high acid foods, so care must be taken to maintain the acidity. Tomatoes are high acid foods, but onions and peppers are not. Vinegar in the recipe contributes to the acidity. You can substitute different kinds of peppers, such as sweet for hot, but be careful to not have more than the total amount of peppers called for in the recipe. The same goes for onions. They could be any combination of red, yellow, or white, but the total should not exceed the amount in the recipe. The Complete Guide to Home Canning has great information about this and other substitutions. You can find it online at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website as a free download or order your own hardcopy at Purdue Extension’s Education Store.

jars of salsaBesides tacos, salsa can be used as an addition to many foods, including potatoes and eggs. Of course, it can be eaten as a dip just as it is. I grow cowpeas out to dried beans, store them in jars in the pantry, then cook them as needed. We have found that salsa goes great with those cooked cowpeas. If you are growing your own staple crops, salsa and other relishes can add interest and taste to your meals. Last winter friends gave us two jars of relish. One was corn relish, but I don’t remember the name of the other. It was all delicious on cowpeas. If you are putting up pints for your table, make sure to can some half-pints (jelly jar size) to give as gifts. The time, energy, and produce that went into making the salsa now will be appreciated by the recipients when gift-giving time rolls around. It will also make your life easier to have something on hand to share with your friends anytime the mood strikes. If you are wondering about those white lids on my canning jars—they are reusable lids. I like to use them on high acid foods and only on jars that I won’t be giving away. I’ll have to make another batch with regular lids for gift jars.

Salsa, canned in jars, is a convenience food for me. I have not tried fermenting it, but according to Sandor Katz in The Art of Fermentation, you could do that. Reduce or eliminate the vinegar and use plenty of salt. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic are available at the farmers markets now. If you haven’t grown your own, you could still do this. The 10 Day Local Food Challenge is coming up in October. If you plan on taking part, having a supply of salsa put up will enhance your meals. The 10 Day Local Food Challenge allows ten exotics in your diet, which are items not local. For me, that would be the salt and vinegar in the recipe. I haven’t made vinegar, but I suppose you could make your own from local apples. Then vinegar would be off the exotic list. Maybe you could find a vinegar maker and saltworks within your local food shed. It is something to think about.homeplace earth

Onion Harvest

Onions at harvest.

Onions at harvest.

Onions have been on my mind lately because I have been sorting my harvest. I make sure to harvest onions when their tops begin to fall over, but while the tops are still green. Each leaf is a covering over the onion, which protects it. When the tops dry, the outer covering can be removed to reveal a clean onion. Trim the roots and that is all there is to cleaning onions.

Before you can get to the cleaning part, you need to have a good way to dry the onions with their tops intact. If you do that, you can braid them. When you leave the onions in the garden for too long, the tops die and disappear. Not only do you not have the tops for braiding, but you may not even be able to find where the onions are.

A shady place is good to dry onions, and if you don’t have too many you could spread them out on your porch to dry. When I was growing a lot of onions to sell I would spread them out on the floor of our barn loft. In June and July it was available space, but in August I would be getting in hay for the cow that we had at the time, so I needed to sort and braid the onions in a timely manner.

Onions hung to dry after harvest.

Onions hung to dry after harvest.

Eventually I needed to come up with a better way. I decided to use some old welded wire fencing with 2”x 4” spaces. I made the fence into a circle and put it on two cement blocks for better air circulation. The onions are loaded onto the fencing with the bulbs in the middle of the circle and the tops on the outside. If the onions are too big to be put through the spaces from the outside, you need to reach the onion down to the inside and pull the top through to the outside. Keep that in mind if you are making such a circle. A good size is about 3’ high and 2’ wide.

Onions dried on this circle of fencing.

Onions dried on this circle of fencing.

Having this rest on the cement blocks works for good air circulation, but I’ve also hung it up by tying baling twine to two sides with loops to hang from nails in the rafters. This frees up floor space in addition to contributing to better air circulation. Once the tops are dry (it will take a few weeks) you can begin to sort. There is no hurry and you could leave them there for quite some time, but it is best to go through them to determine the ones that will keep the longest and the onions that need to be used soon.

I grow storage varieties because I want them to last as long as possible. Some of the sweeter varieties are not for storage and you will need to eat them or dry them soon. Even with the storage varieties, there are always some that need to be used before too long. I determine that by pressing with my thumb where the dry top comes out of the onion bulb. If there is no give, it is a keeper. If there is just a little give, those are the next best keepers. If I detect a softness there, I put those aside to use first.

I would use the onions that I knew were not long term keepers in cooking throughout the summer and in the spaghetti sauce I used to can. Now that I make spaghetti sauce from my solar dried tomatoes, I dry those “use first” onions in my solar food dryers for use later in the sauce. Preparation for that is easy—cut them up and put them on the trays. My solar dehydrators are outside, of course. If you are drying onions in an electric dryer be prepared for the aroma of onions. You might want to set the dehydrator out on your porch when you are doing onions.

red onion on string

String for braiding is attached.

I love braiding the onions that I will be keeping the longest. They will hang in the rafters of my garden shed until fall. Then I will hang the braids from the floor joists in the crawl space of our house, bringing one braid at a time to the kitchen. I usually put about 3 pounds of onions in each braid, although the string of red onions in the photo below only weights 1.25 pounds. To make a braid, I cut a string about 3’ in length, fold it in half to make a loop, and wrap it around one onion top near the bulb. Drawing the two ends of the string through the loop holds the string tight to the onion. The string is braided along with the onion top it is attached to. You need three onions to start the braid. To braid, keep putting one onion top to the middle working from one side, then the next. Add a new onion each time a dried top goes into the middle. The top for that onion will now be braided with the onion top it was paired with in the middle.

onion braid

Onion braid.

It is time to tie things off before you run out of string. There should be two string ends mixed in with your onion tops. I wrap them around the dried tops a couple times, knotting them in the front and the back. Tie the ends together, leaving a loop for hanging. Trim the tops to an attractive length. For a great looking onion braid, pull off the dry outer covering and trim the roots on the onions before braiding. Braids are great. Not only do they look good, but you can see all the onions at once, making it easy to choose what size you want. If one is not looking so good, you will know right away and can use that one before the others. If you are selling onions at a farmers market, the braids hanging from your canopy will attract attention and you can get a premium for them. You can even mix varieties, and if you look closely at the photo of the braid, you will notice a yellow onion in with the red.

If you have harvested onions this year and wondered just how to handle them, I hope this post has given you some good ideas. You might want to make some notes for next year’s harvest. In a previous post about onions I wrote of the health benefits of onions and gave some planting tips. They should be part of everyone’s diet and garden. If you did not grow any onions this year, buy them from local growers now and plan to make onions a part of your 2016 garden plan.Homeplace Earth

clothesline with clothes-BLOGWe don’t have an electric clothes dryer at our house. We used to have one, but took it out because we never used it. In its place there is room for crocks and for shelves full of jars of dried food. We hang our laundry to dry outside on the clothesline, which is actually a solar clothes dryer. When we moved here in 1984 I stretched three rows of clothesline from the garage to the pumphouse by putting large screw eyes in the eaves of both buildings. In case you are thinking that it must never rain here—it does, regularly. The total rainfall for our area is about 44” annually, more or less spread evenly throughout the year. In June we had 8” of rain, which is a pretty wet month. Nevertheless, we were still able to dry the clothes on the line. I watch the weather and do laundry on the dry days. So far in July we have had 2.2” of rain.

shirts hanging on shower rod-BLOGWe put shirts on hangers and hang them on the shower rod in the bathroom. Give them a good shake before hanging and you get out many of the wrinkles. Another trick to having less wrinkles is to not let the clothes sit in the washer too long after the cycle is finished. Once the shirts are dry they are hung back in the closets.

It is surprising how many good drying days on the clothesline we have in the winter. Sometimes the clothes are freeze-dried, but that’s okay, they still dry. In the winter we make good use of the large wooden drying rack we have. That rack is one of the best investments we made back in the early 1980s. Our previous house was small, making it pretty crowded if I set up the drying rack during the day; so if I was going to use it inside, I would wash clothes in the evening and leave the drying rack up all night in front of a heating vent that was in the wall in the dining room. I could hang a whole load of cloth diapers or other laundry on that rack in the evening and everything would be dry in the morning. You can even put it in a room without direct heat from a vent and the clothes will still dry. If the air in your house is too dry, your wet laundry can be a natural humidifier. This rack folds to 6″ wide and slides into a space beside the refrigerator in the kitchen between uses.

drying rack with herbs and seeds-BLOGIn the photo you can see that a drying rack is good for drying more than laundry. Here it is in use to dry herbs, beans, and roselle. The beans were harvested as dried beans, but I felt they needed a bit more drying before I packed them away. I usually dry the Red Thai Roselle calyxes in my solar dryer outside, but they dried well on these racks inside. There was no fire in the woodstove that day. That is a handy spot to put the rack year round. In the winter the heat from the woodstove speeds the drying. The drying screens are from my solar dryer that was not being used that day. It is nice that the dowels on the rack align so that the screens fit across them like that.

Basements are a good place to put up clotheslines since you don’t have to worry about the weather. If you feel you don’t have time for all this, let me tell you about the year I went back to school to finish college. My husband and I lived in Columbus, Ohio with our firstborn when I was finishing the requirements for my degree in Home Economics Education from Ohio State University. During the quarter I was doing student teaching I didn’t get to bed until at least midnight. If not then, it was 2am—then up at 6am to do it all again. We used cloth diapers on our toddler. In the evening I would put laundry through the washer and we would hang it to dry, including the diapers, on lines in the basement. The laundry we hung the previous evening would be dry. I realize that was 40 years ago, but it would work the same today.

A couple years later we moved to Richmond, Virginia. There are not so many basements in the houses here. The frost line is not so deep, so the building foundations don’t have to be as deep. The house we bought was usual for the area—a small cape cod style house with no basement. In these houses, what would be the attic was usually finished into two bedrooms. We used one of the two upstairs rooms as a catchall room and put clotheslines there. You don’t need a woodstove to dry clothes inside.

My husband and I are pleased to not have to depend on electricity and fossil fuel to dry our laundry. If you are looking for a way to lessen your dependence on such things, seriously consider hanging your clothes to dry. If you look around your house and property you will certainly find a place suitable to dry your laundry. With just a little adjustment in your schedule, I’m sure you can also find a way to ditch your dryer.Homeplace Earth


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