Monday, March 14, 2011

What Makes the Farm Cool

Last Monday was Homestead Hill Farm’s official “clean the cooler” day. I’ve been thinking of, and dreading this job for weeks. It HAD to be done, and HAD to be done right NOW. But, imagine a refrigerator you can walk inside of (hence, the name “walk-in cooler”) well, it has the ability to grow things far larger and more unsettling than your kitchen fridge…honestly.

Okay, so I didn’t let it get to that point. No, I really didn’t! Although, those “long-keeping” cabbages really didn’t last that LONG! They were really pretty gross, edible…but, gross! But, there was nothing in there that was past recognition, thankfully. And now, it’s all neat and tidy and ready for the 2011 vegetable season to begin. I cannot wait to go get the seed potatoes!

Tom bought the cooler on Ebay about 7 years ago. (Really? Has it been THAT long?) I just love our cooler! It is a fulfillment of a long-time dream. (I told you I’m a different sort)

It makes us look SO good!

Yes, I realize I need to explain that last statement. In order to do so, allow me to go back in time to LBC “life before the cooler”.

When we first started our gardening adventures, we had little, if ANY, equipment to make it easier. We were determined to be “debt-free” and that led to some interesting options and decisions along the way. Since we didn’t have much money to spend, we got by with the bare essentials. We had refrigeration for the eggs, but the vegetables were often stored in the relative coolness of the cellar. This worked fairly well, but was not the best solution. Neither, might I add, was processing vegetables and/or eggs in the small sink in the utility room.

First we found some “cheap” refrigerators. That made storing veggies a little better. However, we were milking cows, yes, plural, at the time, and that makes for a LOT of milk! There were jars and jars of milk. We traded a fair amount of the milk (it is NOT legal to sell raw milk in VA, unless it is to be used as “petfood”) and I skimmed the cream and made pounds of butter. The butter was used in baking for the Market. Between the eggs and the milk, there was not much extra space. So, we prioritized the vegetables for refrigerator storage. This worked, but it was not ideal.

About this time, we invested in a secondhand stainless steel sink. Once it was installed in the shed, and running water was in place, we were on our way to having “packing facilities”. This allowed us to cool the vegetables as they came out of the field, greatly increasing their longevity and good looks for the Market. It also kept much of the mess out of the house. Hooray!

I had long envied the walk-in cooler of some of our acquaintances. Tom thought it was a rather strange object to covet, but he indulged me. Once we had some “extra” money, we took the plunge. He found a great deal on-line, assembled it himself, called in a favor and got a friend to charge the A/C system…and we were in business. A quick trip to Lowes secured shelves for the cooler, and we have never looked back!

Once the vegetables are hydro-cooled and then placed in the cooler, they look gorgeous come Market day! While you can be assured if you eat our produce that it was picked the week you buy it, you can also be assured it will last longer because we have the ability to substantially slow the aging process through refrigeration.

Amazingly, now, Tom is the one who thinks perhaps we need a BIGGER cooler! (or at least more space that is cool) I think that’s funny. He tends to joke about me and my grandiose plans (that don’t generally come to fruition). But, if we had more space….we could cool MORE things.

Hmmmm, those little wheels are turning again….if we could COOL more, we should GROW more and then….SELL more!

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