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Organic Gardening

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The Larder

By Charlyn Ellis

Tags: Pacific Northwest gardening, food storage, Charlyn Ellis, Oregon,

squashThe larder was once an awkward spot half way down the cellar stairs, where the wood pile collapsed, cats rummaged after rodents, and spiders gathered. But, when we remodeled the garage into a dining room, it became the most unexpected and best addition of all.

The larder is 5 feet deep — a long arms length in — and 6 feet wide. It is 4 feet high; above is a cozy reading nook, looking into the back yard. The floor is the old cement slab of the garage, which stays cool in summer. The walls and the ceiling are insulated and finished with sheetrock and there is a set of double doors, also insulated, that swing open at chest height off of the stairway. We put two screened openings to the outside, and, to be honest, there is a little airflow coming in between the foundation and the wall as well. The space stays cooler in summer, when we store canning supplies and the food dehydrator there for easy access, but it truly shines in winter.

In early October, I begin to stock the space. First, I bring in the pumpkins and squashes from our yard and from local farmers. They are tucked on the shelves to the left, all of their funky organic shapes cast in shadows. Then I fill a potting tray with the long keeper tomatoes and set them against the back wall, propped on a crate. Apples from our CSA settle in under the crate. A few weeks later, sixty pounds of onions are tumbled into boxes, which sit to the right. A paper bag of bulbs, waiting for winter rituals, hides in the back corner next to the seed storage tin. In early December, the space glows with a case of oranges that I buy to support the high school baseball team. We store armloads of kale, mustard, and chard, ordered weekly from Sunbow farm, in the larder as well. Pots of soup, left-over casseroles, and an occasional jug of cider can spend a day or two in the larder; in winter, it is the same temperature as our apartment sized refrigerator. There is not enough room to hold the one hundred pounds of potatoes that we grow each year, so they live in milk crates at the bottom of the stairs and the canned goods are in the basement, against the far wall.

Come mid-winter, I walk downstairs, gather a can of peaches from the basement shelves, some potatoes from the bins, and the greens and onions from the larder, pulling together dinners from what we have tucked away, and feel truly blessed to store so much healthy, organic, and beautiful food in my home.

To read more about the Twenty First Street Urban Homestead, check out my blog. To see more of Julia Lont’s amazing artwork, go to and

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