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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Saving Private Onion

This weekend was a busy one, because the weather was decent and I was itching to get back in the game.  Yesterday I redistributed the compost pile, shredded some straw (more on that in a different post), got the replacement Italian plum into the ground and the strawberries into their planter box. Then today I planted an olive tree and moved two hydrangeas to one side of the driveway.  But that was after I weeded, laid down some leftover slate and put bark down on top of it, and put in a header to make a place to keep the garbage cans.  And it was also before I dug up and moved a native filbert tree, dug up a Japanese maple and replanted it along the left side of the driveway, and dug up and moved another hydrangea.  And I'm not done with this section of landscaping; I still have to move the last hydrangea and plant the other olive tree.  But I was done moving soil and plants for the day.  I am drinking my liniment as I write this.

The most important chore for the day, however, was saving the rest of the onions, which are starting to go.  Oddly, it seems to be the onions at the bottom of the braids that are rotting.  The big thing was to get the braids down off their hooks, so that I could look the onions over and put the good ones in the refrigerator for the rest of their lives.  Turns out, maybe a third of them were too far gone to keep.  The garage is the coldest place to keep them, but for some reason, the weather pretty consistently warms in January, so the garage warms then as well.  It warmed so much this January, that I lost every one of those nice parsnips I put away there.  I should have put them all in the refrigerator, but I put most of them in sand in the garage.  When it warmed up, the parsnips started growing, and my understanding is that they are no longer edible because they are somewhat toxic now.  I will save a couple of the sturdiest and replant them in the backyard for seed, and the rest will go into the green barrel.

But I managed to save some of Private Onion.

8 comments:

Ruth @ Hope, Joy and Faith Farm said...

If the onions keep going bad, try dehydrating them. Here on the Oregon coast, I can't winter over onions at all, just too damp. So, I dehydrated them in the food dryer. I keep 'em in jars in the pantry and put whatever I need into the recipes.

Christian said...

Nice! It's great to be busy. I just can;t believe how much you got done!

I only managed to clean the garage. I don't think the previous owners had swept in there during the 20+ years they owned it. I got mauled by dust tigers and mutant silverfish. Puke!

Grandpa said...

You have a way with words Paula, LOL!!

Jennifer Montero said...

This year I'm growing a variety of onion which claims to be especially good for storing, along with a standard variety. Perhaps the type you grew resents hanging around??

I didn't know that about parsnip toxicity. What a shame. I've been digging up a few rutabagas and turnips from the field crops that farmers are using to feed their cattle/sheep in winter. They've kept well in the frozen ground. Flavor is a bit lacking but free is free.

I thought I was productive spending a few good hours digging over my veg patch (I'm doubling its size this year) but having read your post I feel put to shame. All that, even with your injuries (I have a hangover from a dinner party last night but I'm afraid that was self-inflicted. Not a common occurence thankfully)

Paula said...

Ruth- I did dehydrate some of the onion last summer. I have a bunch of smaller ones in a net bag in a basket on the floor in the garage, and they are keeping really well, which I think is due to the floor temperature. So next summer, I think I'll dispense with the braids, and keep them in a basket on the floor of the garage. I could also freeze some of them, in addition to drying, I guess.

Christian- sometimes cleaning the garage is an all-day job! I've certainly been there before. In fact, I can think of one that needs cleaning even as I write this...

Thanks Grandpa!

Don't feel bad Jennifer- I've been idle for two weeks and the inactivity was driving me nuts, so I went at yesterday like a crazy woman. I hate having a hangover (not that anyone actually likes them) because it doesn't mean that I've had a good time; it just means that I wasn't paying attention. Plus, I lose a day. Plus, it lowers my immunity and I always, always get sick after a hangover. I hope you feel better soon!

Rae said...

I take it your finger is feeling better? :) Busy busy! Congrats on getting so much done. It really was a lovely weekend for once.

Weird about the onions on the bottom rotting. Is there much condensation in your garage in the winter? (there is in our shop). If so, perhaps moisture could be rolling down the braid and collecting on the bottom onions? I still have a couple onions on the counter that I dug up last September. I don't know what it is about those yellow onion sets from Wilco, but they seem to make great keeping onions, and I store them on the kitchen counter of all places. They just got them into stock at Wilco last week, if you want to try them this year.

Paula said...

My finger is much better, thank you! In fact, I just unwrapped it to take a look and let it air out of its binding. Working with the splint was challenging, but doable. My biggest concern was my thumb muscle atrophying. I hyper-extended my right thumb several years back, and in the eight weeks it took to heal, the muscles atrophied, and now I have trouble getting into jars by myself. Consequently, my left hand became my strong hand. But that was eight weeks. This has only been two.

We don't have any condensation issues in the garage (thank goodness!), so I doubt that's the issue, although your hypothesis is a good one. The varieties I chose to grow last year were all keepers; the regular yellow ones were Copra, a hybrid storage onion.

This year, I bought Stuttgarter seed, which is open-pollinated, and I chose it because that's the variety that Nita over at Throwback From Trapper Creek grows consistently every year. Since I know she's growing for keeps and she knows her stuff, I decided to try it. The other reason is that it's OP- I'm going to try to start saving seed this year. Don't know how good I'll be at it.

It just dawned on me that it's possible that I just managed to get the wrong onions on the bottom, since I chose the largest for last. I had trouble with a lot of the onions growing flower stalks last year because of the wacky spring weather we had. First it was coo;, then it was warm, then it was cool, then it was warm, and it tricked the onions, which are biennial, into thinking they'd survived a winter and now it was time to get busy making seed. I really tried not to get any onions with flower stalks because once they start one, they're no longer good for anything, especially keeping.

Rae said...

I'd love to grow onions from seed, but I'm going to wait until we've got more of an established garden area. Everything is such an experiment this year, I'm mostly sticking with what's familiar and easy. I can't wait to see how your Stuttgarter onions turn out!

Last year was definitely a screwy growing season. Hoping we get a bit more lucky this year!