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7 Essentials for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Making it through the holiday season stress-free is nearly impossible. However, there are ways to lessen your stress and enjoy this special time of year! If your to-do list already has you pulling your hair out, here are seven ways to stay sane through the end of the year:

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

1. More Sleep

Here’s the deal: Lack of sleep amplifies stress. Before you can even fathom taking care of others this holiday season, you must learn to take care of yourself first. That means, as difficult as it is, you need to prioritize sleep.

Not to mention, sleep might just be one of the most underrated gifts out there. Your mom already has a thousand candles but I bet she’d die for better shut-eye. Whether that means gifting her a relaxing night to herself or actually purchasing her a new mattress (because let’s face it, hers is probably 20 years old), we often underestimate just how valuable a good night of sleep can be for our physical, mental and emotional health. My advice to you—don’t only prioritize sleep this season, consider gifting it to others.

P.S. Did you know mattresses now come compressed and rolled in a box? AMAZING. Who would have thought you could actually wrap a mattress?!

2. A Confidant

Speaking of your mom, get yourself a confidant. Of course, it doesn’t have to be your mom, but who else willingly and patiently listens to you rant?!

All jokes aside, whether it’s your best friend, sister, partner, or mom, talk through your anxieties with someone your trust. There is truth in the saying you need to get something off your chest. Endless to-dos have a way of pressing on us, so much so, that it actually feels like we carry the weight of them on our backs. The first step in relieving the pressure weighing on you is to verbalize them. In fact, once you speak your anxieties they seem to lose their power.

Rather than letting issues get blown out of proportion or letting your mind start racing the second your head hits the pillow, get it out of your mind and off your chest!

3. The Perfect Brew(s)

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

The best part of my day: pouring a piping hot cup of coffee and adding my peppermint mocha creamer. Come holiday season, that morning cup of coffee might be the only thing to get me through the day. If you aren’t a coffee person, maybe a hot cup of tea will do the trick.

Regardless of your brew, the secret to the perfect cup of coffee is allowing yourself to enjoy it. Even 5 minutes of stillness each morning can have profound effects on your mental and emotional state throughout the day. In fact, you can even find stillness on your morning commute. Crazy as it sounds, all you have to do is turn off the radio and enjoy the silence.

Not a morning person? Have a cup of tea or beer before bed. Your sanity is something you should protect. That means giving your mind and body a moment of stillness each day.

4. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

As humans, we like to think we have it all together. Newsflash: none of us have it together. And that’s okay! As much as you’d like to be the perfect host in the perfect house with the perfect holiday dishes,  it’s okay to ask for help if you are baking or decorating yourself into the ground.

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

5. Christmas Candle Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a wonderful natural remedy to de-stress. What better excuse to have a Christmas candle burning in every room of the house? Here I am going to add a shameless plug for Woodwick Candles. Seriously, people, these things crackle while they burn! Talk about festive. Not to mention, they make the perfect gift.

This is in no way sponsored, I’m just their number one fan.

6. Take a Weekly Sabbath

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to pick one day every week and treat it as a Sabbath. Historically, a sabbath is a day of rest observed by abstaining from work. For this exercise, you get to define when and what that looks like for you.

For example, your sabbath doesn’t have to be a whole day. It can be one evening a week or a couple hours on a weekend morning. Once you’ve decided when your sabbath will be, then you can set the parameters for what your sabbath looks like. During the holidays, perhaps your sabbath means absolutely no shopping, cooking, or holiday planning for one whole day each week. Maybe it means taking a break from social media for an afternoon. The key here is to identify what activities cause you to stress and then vow to not do them on your sabbath.

The key is to establish your sabbath and then protect it! Even if only for this season.

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

7. A Spirit of Thanksgiving

Last but not least, you’ll need a positive mindset to get you through the holidays without being miserable. Regardless of whether you are religious, remember what this season is for—celebrating family, friends, and all of life’s blessings! Don’t let it pass by in a frenzied blur, but remember to stop and appreciate the reason why you are doing the activities you are doing—hosting meals to commune with the ones you love, giving gifts to family to express your love in a tangible way, and reflecting on just how blessed we are.

Diabetes Awareness Month: Doing Our Part

November marks Diabetes Awareness Month, a time to reflect on a variation of pancreatic disorders that greatly affect our world. Around 422 million adults are living with some form of diabetes, and the number is growing. Every year, 40,000 children and adults are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes alone. With occurrences becoming more prevalent, we must all increase our awareness of the disease.

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Photo by T1International

Know the Facts

Understanding diabetes, and debunking myths, are among the most important things we can do this month.

Type 1 and 2 Diabetes

There are different types of diabetes—type 1 and 2 are so different in fact, that many argue the conditions should have completely different names. Both are to be taken seriously, but the intertwining of references can pose dangerous situations for those who deal with diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes can occur as a result of many things, not just diet or lifestyle. Ultimately, the body doesn’t make as much life essential insulin as it needs to convert sugar into energy, or the body doesn’t respond to the insulin it does make, resulting in high blood sugar levels.

Type 1 diabetes is as different as night and day, because it’s an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks the insulin making cells in the pancreas, rendering a person completely dependent on insulin injections, which can be equally comparable to life necessities such as water or air. It’s a tight rope walk managing the disease—too little insulin leads to dangerous high blood sugar numbers, and too much to extreme low blood sugar numbers, both of which can be fatal.

A few interesting notes....

  • There is no current cure for type 1 diabetes.
  • Insulin is essential for survival because it brings consumed sugar or carbs (which are eventually broken down into sugar), or glucose made from the liver, into the cells for energy. We all would die without insulin, so it’s not as simple as “quitting sugar” for diabetics.
  • Diabetes dates back as far as 1500 BC, when mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus.
  • Treatment for diabetes, before the discovery of insulin, was often a starvation diet. The diagnosed were considered terminally ill, and rarely lived over a few months.
  • Insulin literally brought ill patients back to life upon its discovery in the 1920s.
  • Although cheap to make, insulin is unjustly a very expensive drug, ranging up to thousands of dollars for a month's supply. Patient’s lives are greatly altered by this, and many have died.
  • Sometimes it’s okay for a diabetic to have a cupcake—insulin has to be injected to convert the food to energy, just like a normal functioning body does after eating something. 
  • Diabetes can lead to depression, making management more difficult.
  • Gestational diabetes is a third type which occurs during pregnancy and will likely go away.
  • Common symptoms of diabetes include headaches, thirst, exhaustion, irritability, nausea and frequent urination.
  • It’s a great idea for all households to keep a glucose monitor on hand for intermittent testing—they can be bought over the counter at any pharmacy.

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Photo by T1International

What We Can Do in the Community

Diabetes, in general, affects one out of three Americans, so it’s likely most people are impacted in one way or another. There are things we can do to make this disease a little easier for those who have to endure it.

Take time to understand the disease, or any condition for that matter. Knowing that people understand is therapeutic and encouraging. If you own a restaurant, consider offering special alternatives for those with diabetes or other needs. Eating out is fun, but can be depressing when restricted in any way. Perhaps offer an almond flour biscuit in place of carb rich, gluten-based ones. Substitute herb steamed veggies for rice or pasta— provide hummus and carrots for those who can’t indulge in pre-meal chips and salsa. Having reasonable available options can make all the difference in the world for someone.

 Encourage your school system to implement awareness days—this could help kids feel less alone while at school, while also laying a foundation of compassion for our youth.

 Hold a fundraiser for a charity benefiting those with the disease, or someone specific in your town who may need a little help.

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Photo by Karyn Wofford

Charities Doing Good

T1International is a UK based, type 1 diabetic operated organization helping those all over the world stand up for their rights, and access the things they need to live with disease. You can sign the access charter online, which details the things diabetics should never have to worry about—by signing in agreeance, you’re giving the movement strength, ultimately changing lives.

PFAM is not a directly diabetes related organization, but has made strides in helping with insulin affordability movements. They believe “access to essential medicines is a moral imperative and a fully-realized human right.”  I-MAK and Patients for Affordable Drugs work toward the same worthy cause.

Contributing to, or just spreading the word about, any of these organizations allows them to further their world changing work.

There are many ways we can make a difference this Diabetes Awareness Month. As a type 1 myself, I can say at times it feels like no one in the world understands. But if we all took the time to extend our compassion not only to those with diabetes, and not only during November, we’d find our world to be an even more beautiful place.

Sustainable Switzerland

When one thinks of Switzerland, the vision of preserved dramatic landscape and pristine waters come to mind. Quaint alpine huts dot the mountain hills, and numerous villages still live by tradition. However, there are cities, but the country works to adapt green ideology to make things work efficiently through clean energy.

When we travel, it’s our duty to support areas that work to reduce their carbon footprint. Switzerland, as a whole, is a country with a multitude of eco-tourism opportunity—with age old culinary practices and endless outdoor escapes, it’s a vacation away from the typical, that supports locals and generations of authentic businesses.

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Photo By: Wikimedia Commons

Transport

More people use the rail service here than in any other country, because it reduces air pollution and frees up the roads—the views on many routes are pretty amazing, so this is probably a partial reason as well.

Currently, Switzerland is working to commission electric buses for public transportation. With some already in place, this efficient way to get arounds is emissions free and will preserve the envied air quality of the country.

With the winter sports industry dominating in the mountainous region, solar powered solutions are being implemented to further reduce the impact on the environment. Wildhaus is a great example of this, and it claims the title of the very first solar powered gondola in Switzerland. Carrying passengers to Alp Gamplüt, the panoramic views are overwhelmingly gorgeous. After disembarking, Kyklos, a revolving restaurant also fueled by the sun, awaits you.

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Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Food

“Genuine” is the best way to describe Swiss cuisine, because it’s simple and derived from the most basic, pure, traditional ingredients that have stood the test of time. German, French and Northern France have all impacted the food scene—there is a lot of focus on creative potato, bread and pasta creations. But the cheese and chocolate are where it’s at. While not vegan, these vegetarian creations made significant marks of the area’s past. Just to note, 18% of Swiss restaurants offer vegetarian food, and 11% offer vegan choices.

Locals shy far away from overproduced, poor quality ingredients that consume resources at an unnecessarily high rate. When sitting down to a meal, it’s comforting to know the country is strict about sustainable agricultural development and real, carefully cultivated food.

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Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

All Swiss cheese is made with intense care, but if you see fromage d’alpage/Alpkäse Cheese, this means the milk came from cows that were walked to mountain pastures for the summer, to graze on wildflowers and herbs while basking in the sun. Flavor in these cheeses are even more unique and delicious, which should teach us that treating animals with love makes a true difference.

Milk chocolate was inspired in the 1800s by homegrown ingredients. The creator wanted to add raw, wholesome Swiss ingredients to take chocolate to the next level, and to make the treat less expensive. Today you’ll find sustainable, fair trade cocoa to be the only acceptable form to many chocolatiers, and you can even take tours at many of the world-renowned facilities like Läderach.

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Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Stay

Aside from green initiatives in the cities, like Basel’s green roofs and Chavannees-pres-Renens’ tree and foliage covered skyscraper plan, there are an abundance of hotels making a difference.

Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, Park Hotel Weggis and Villa Honegg near Lake Lucern, as well as Beau Rivage and La Richmond near Lake Geneva use water from their lakes to cool and heat buildings, conserving almost 500,000 liters of oil every year.

But perhaps you want to steer completely clear of hotels—stay on a farm. With options to sleep in straw and care for animals, there is a varying range of experiences on real farms, displaying the Swiss way of simple, environmentally conscious living. MySwitzerland.com has a great search page to help find the perfect place to stay. Nothing beats dining on farm fresh food, and learning some pretty amazing things while visiting this beautifully preserved country.

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Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Green Travel Tips to Help You Be More Eco-Friendly on Your Next Trip

Traveling broadens your horizons, creates memories that last a lifetime, and even provides several health benefits. However, the potential negative environmental impacts of tourism continue to rise as travel becomes increasingly accessible and popular. For example, with nearly 1 billion tourists crisscrossing the globe every year, carbon dioxide emissions from planes are a growing contributor to global warming. Tourism can also result in increased waste, development, and pollution.

As a result, it’s more important than ever to be eco-conscious and do what you can to protect the natural and cultural landscape of the places you visit. The following green travel tips will help you to minimize your impact and protect the earth while you see the world, as well as preserve the environment for tourists that come after you and for the locals who will continue to live there long after you’ve gone home.

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Before You Go

The heavier the weight that vehicles such as cars, trains, and planes have to carry, the more fuel they have to use to get to their destination. Because they have to use more fuel, more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. Therefore, packing as light as possible when you go on a trip can help to combat global warming.

If no one is going to be in your home while you’re away, be sure to turn off all of the lights, as well as unplug any electronics and appliances that won’t be in use before you leave. You can also turn down your thermostat and water heater. That way, your house won’t be unnecessarily using energy as you travel.

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Getting There

The most environmental mode of transportation for your trip depends on how far you’re traveling. For shorter trips, consider taking a train or bus instead of driving your own car or flying. If taking a bus or a train isn’t possible, a non-stop coach flight is typically the next best option for solo travelers and couples.

If you’re taking a longer journey and traveling on a non-stop flight isn’t feasible, do your best to use the most direct route with the fewest flights as possible, as take-offs and landings burn the most fuel and emit higher levels of CO2. Flying coach rather than first class is better for the environment because the seats are smaller, which means the plane can be more efficient and transport a larger number of people at one time.

If you need to rent a car, choose the smallest vehicle available and select a hybrid if possible. Try to avoid traveling in an SUV, as those vehicles produce significantly more carbon dioxide per mile than a smaller car.

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During Your Stay

If you can, stay with friends or family while on your trip. Or, if you don’t know anyone in the area, consider booking a local’s place through a site such as Airbnb or HomeAway.

If you’re set on staying at a hotel, try to choose a green hotel that is locally owned and operated; has a recycling program in place; and has taken steps to reduce consumption such as installing energy-efficient lighting, providing low-flow toilets and showers, and utilizing alternative energy sources such as wind or solar power.

While on your trip, take care to keep your showers short, turn off lights when you leave the room, and reuse towels and sheets over multiple days rather than having them washed and replaced every single day.

Instead of driving, use public transportation, bike, or walk when possible to get around on your trip.


A proponent of renewable energy and green living, Sarah Hancock enjoys writing about sustainability and manages the solar blog on BestCompany.com. You can also find her work on Twitter.

4 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself in Your Twenties

It’s often said that when you’re in your twenties, you’re always on the hunt for a job, an apartment, or a significant other—sometimes all three. Twenty-something women, thrust into the constant hustle and bustle of the modern workforce, have a lot cut out for us. With so much to juggle, it can be easy to let self-care fall by the wayside in the process.

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Photo by Unsplash

No matter how busy your schedule, you should always make some time for yourself. If you’re looking for ways to take better care of yourself now that you’re well into your twenties (and starting to feel it), look no further—we’ve learned these the hard way, just for you.

Eat Well

Living a healthy lifestyle is the first step towards taking proper care of yourself in your twenties. There are innumerable benefits to eating well other than weight loss.

Consider switching to a plant-based meal plan to ease you in the right direction. Studies have shown that a diet low in carbs and high in veggies can improve your sleep, energy levels, and cognitive functions. Not only is it the perfect way to jump-start your health, it’s also a fun way to try out some new recipes and explore different dishes and flavors.

Invest in Skin Care Now

Taking care of your skin will climb higher and higher on your priority list with age. But the decisions you make now will definitely affect you (and your skin) later. Do your future self a favor and be thoughtful about your skin-care routine now.

Luckily for you, it’s easier than you think to get started on crafting your own routine, even if you’re unsure of where to start.

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Photo by Unsplash

First, do your research and talk to your dermatologist about your skin type and needs. Then invest in a nourishing moisturizer with a sufficient level of SPF. Next, through a little experimentation, find your go-to detoxifying face mask so that you have it on hand when you need it most. Last but not least, get sufficient sleep. Believe it or not, sleep has a big effect on overall skin health, but more on that later.

The best thing about skin care is that there are no rules in the game—you are free to take what you like and leave what you don’t. We know the many stresses that come with this stage of adulthood. Finding your perfect skin-care routine doesn’t have to be one of them. Just know, if you don’t start now, it's likely to show later.

Get Adequate Sleep

Young adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Yet, sleep deprivation has been deemed a public health issue in the United States with 50 to 70 million Americans falling victim to sleep disorders.

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Photo by Unsplash

Sleep is vital to our overall health and wellness. In fact, lack of sleep has been tied to an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. If you are logging less than seven hours of sleep each night, take a look at your sleep health from a holistic point of view.

Take a look at your sleeping structure and position. Are environmental factors such as light, temperature, noise interrupting your sleep? If you struggle to fall asleep at night, create a wind down routine that begins about an hour before bed. Dim the lights, stash the screens, draw a bath, whatever it takes to help prep your mind and body for sleep.

Do What You Love

You’ve heard the saying before: “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” While that might not always be true, self-fulfillment far outweighs any amount of money you could make.

Finding what direction you want to take can be daunting. But it’s a good time to remind yourself that you’re only in your twenties and the possibilities of what you can offer to the world are endless.

Don’t be afraid to seek out career advice from those you admire. If you’re unsure of where to start, begin by identifying your passions and your strengths. Then find where they intersect. The answer won’t come overnight, but your calling will be revealed little by little.

There is no road map for navigating life in your twenties. However, one certainty is that reaching your potential starts with taking better care of yourself now. Take some time to focus on yourself today—thirty-something and beyond you will thank you.

Incorporating Minimalism into Your Wellness Plan

Minimalism is a growing trend, for all the right reasons. This latest lifestyle trend encourages people, in a world full of excess and new, new, new, to be more intentional about their surroundings, purchases, and overall livelihood. This can benefit your finances, declutter your life, and create a general better sense of wellness.

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Photo by Unsplash

Of course it’s difficult waking up one day and starting a brand new minimalist life.That being said, if you are considering this lifestyle change here are some ideas to get started on incorporating minimalism into your home and everyday life.

Make a List, Check It Twice

Organization is easily the first and most important step in any minimalist journey. Going through everything that is currently cluttering your home, office, and even mind can be a great way to cleanse yourself of unnecessary stress and disarray. Moreover, minimalist organization can lend itself to other unexpected areas of your life such as your social media, email inbox, and even decisions such as going paperless with your bills and magazines.

A great mantra to have while getting organized is if it doesn’t truly make you happy, let it go: pieces in your wardrobe, decorations in your house, old (toxic) friends on Facebook, you get the picture. Less is always more in a minimalist life but starting small and working your way up to a proper purge can help make the transition a lot smoother and less overwhelming. Create a list and a time frame and work towards achieving your minimalist goals. You can feel accomplished with your progress while also reaping those wellness benefits of minimalism.

Baby Steps!

Speaking of starting small, to begin your minimalist purge try starting with one room at a time in your house. The bedroom is a great place to begin as you likely spend the most time there—it’s also where you probably have a lot of clutter hidden. Furthermore, bedrooms tends to be our safe haven away from roommates, work, and the general stressors of life. Creating a minimalist bedroom can help eliminate distractions and make you more intentional with your surroundings.

Bringing in more elements of wellness into your bedroom (and removing the things that aren’t) can make those times when you need an escape even more beneficial to your well-being. Remember, while minimalism is about eliminating unnecessary items, it’s also about keeping things that bring value to your life. With that in mind, adding items to your bedroom that have a unique purpose and benefit can be just as useful as cleaning out the clutter.

For example, consider removing the TV in your room and adding a bookcase full of your favorite books, as well as new ones you’re looking forward to reading. What about the art in your bedroom? Does it have a genuine organization and purpose to it, or is it just a random collection you’ve acquired throughout the years? Furthermore, what elements are missing that can enrich your mental health: do you have curtains, a place for storage, comfortable bedding? Remember, minimalism is really about your well-being, while also reducing your impact on Mother Nature. Utilizing pieces that inspire wellness can create the perfect space for you without cluttering your home (and mind) up.  

Incorporating minimalism into your wellness plan can seem intimidating at first. However, you’ll soon realize the benefits this kind of life can have on your physical and mental well-being. Eliminating stress and clutter creates a place for you to exist more contently, without feeling suffocated by the materialistic desires constantly surrounding us. Good luck!

Fall Food Stockpiling

With the leaves changing colors and that crisp fall smell in the air, I only have one thing on my mind...getting ready for the winter that is just around the corner.

Here in South Dakota, winter is a long affair, lasting from at least November to April and the possibility of snow begins in September and ends in June. After we spend time enjoying our few glorious summer months, we begin preparing our minds and our homes for the long winter ahead.

For me, that also means preparing my pantry and filling it with all the healthy foods that I can get now so that we will have a wide variety of foods to enjoy all winter long. Canning and preserving are important of course. Filling the pantry shelves with delicious jars of everything from canned tomatoes to apple pie filling. And filling the freezer with fresh meats that we prefer to butcher before the weather gets too cold. But my favorite area to stockpile with delicious foods is my cold storage area. Our family enjoys eating as much “fresh” produce as we can possibly handle and to have squash, potatoes, carrots, and even apples that we don’t have to go to the store for is a real treat.

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Photo by Johannes Hofmann on Unsplash

Creating a Fall Stockpile

Fall is the perfect time to fill your cold storage area. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still maintain a healthy cold storage pantry without having to clean out your bank account. Farmer’s Markets are a wonderful way to find produce that will be perfect for storage and don’t be afraid to ask for a deal if you are buying something in bulk, especially towards the end of the farmer’s market season.

A few vegetables that you will want to try and have in your cold storage stockpile:

  • Winter Squash, Potatoes, Root Vegetables (carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, etc), Onions, and Pumpkins.

Herbs can also be a wonderful addition to a fall stockpile if you dry them and hang them up in your cold storage area.

Fruits can also be stored in a cold storage area (such as apples, pears, etc) but they will need to be stored separately from your vegetables as they need a different humidity level and they will also put off gasses that will make your potatoes begin to sprout.

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Photo by Lars Blankers on Unsplash

Preparing Your Cold Storage Area

Be sure that you have properly cured all items. This means letting onion stems completely dry, let potatoes cure/dry for at least a week, and let winter squash sit in a dry place for at least 2 weeks. Root vegetables do not need to cure but do need to have their leafy tops removed. If items are not able to properly cure before placing them in cold storage, they will have more of a tendency to rot and get mushy very quickly, potentially spoiling your stockpile.

You need to make sure that your cold storage area can maintain a cool and dry temperature throughout the winter. It should not be able to freeze.

Each item that you store may need to be kept at a slightly different humidity level and temperature. There is a good list of these differences. If you need to keep all of your vegetables together in the same space, try and stick with a lower humidity level and a cooler room based on the veggies that you are storing. Keep in mind that the items not kept at their optimal conditions will probably need to be used first.

Maintaining Your Fall Stockpile

Be sure and check on your produce at least once a week. It will be easy to do if you are consistently using food from this stockpile. Remove any items that appear to be getting soft or moldy.

A well-kept cold storage area can last right into the spring. We usually are still left with eating up our onions as we are planting a new batch in our garden and we almost always have potatoes that are beginning to sprout that can be then planted into our new spring garden.

Keeping a cold storage is a worthy task for any homesteader, country or urban, and your family will reap the rewards all winter long. It all begins in the fall when you create your stockpile and take advantage of the delicious summer harvest before the days get short and the nights get long.

 







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