Sunday, March 13, 2011

Refrigeration off the grid

Signs of spring:  The first spring flowers are blooming.  They are wind-pollinated, so they don't need to wait for the insects to come out.

Alder catkins

Birch catkin

Willow catkins

Refrigeration Off-the-Grid

Refrigeration off the grid isn't much of a problem in a cold climate like we have here in the Cariboo.  It's even less a problem when your diet consists mostly of fresh food grown on your own farm.

Most people stuff their fridges full of leftovers and things that don't require really icy temperatures (like pickles and produce). As long as you eat any leftovers promptly, a cold room in the basement is enough refrigeration for most things.

Our cold room takes up the north third of our basement.  It's three feet underground, with a dirt floor, and it's well insulated on all four walls as well as the ceiling.  This keeps it isolated from the rest of the house as well as the outside, and the temperature stays pretty constant year-round, at a few degrees above freezing.  There is a small vent to the outside to let cool night air in through the summer, and we can open a door to the heated part of the basement if it gets too cold in the winter.

Meat and milk are the two items that need colder temperatures.  We hang our milk in a basket in the well to keep it cold.  It's a time-honoured method.  In mid-summer, even the well isn't cold enough to keep the milk fresh for longer than a couple of days, but when you have a constant supply of it fresh from the goat, there's no need to drink two-day-old milk anyway.  We eat much more meat in the winter than in summer.  In winter, the meat can simply be stored outside in a cabinet.  Whatever we're going to store for summer use gets pressure-canned.

Milk basket being lowered into a snow-surrounded well

Occasionally, we use our propane fridge; for example, if we butcher and then are too busy to do the canning right away.  Most years go by without our using it, though.  We find it mostly to be an unnecessary expense.

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