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PHOTO: Daniel Johnson
Farmers have a reputation for using common items in unusual ways. It’s probably related to our DIY attitudes—we want to do things ourselves, using whatever items or tools we have handy. Need examples? Whether it’s old barn wood, worn-out hand saws, milk jugs or nylon stockings, we’ve covered plenty of items you can reimagine or reuse as part of clever hacks.
One of my favorite hacks? Use a yard cart to aid in drying onions during harvest season. Before you can store them for future use, the onions need to be cured, which involves spreading them out in a ventilated area where air can circulate among them.
For several reasons, a simple yard cart can be perfect for drying a modest crop of onions. I have an old green yard cart that is perfect for my needs. The steering no longer works properly, making it unsuitable for typical tasks, but the cart’s mesh bed is ideal for drying onions because it lets air circulate up and under the onions.
Yard carts offer another advantage to drying onions—the ability to easily move your onions around. You can harvest your onions directly onto the yard cart and let them sit a day for two for some preliminary drying, knowing that at night—or when rain is in the forecast—you can quickly pull the yard cart into your garage to keep the onions from getting wet.
If your yard cart doesn’t have a mesh bottom, never fear—it’s easy to build one. For drying onions, construct a wooden frame roughly the size of the yard cart, then use a staple gun to stretch a sheet of hardware cloth across the frame. By setting the frame on top of the yard cart, you can enjoy the benefits of keeping the onions on a mesh platform while still being able to move them around with the yard cart. If you want, you can even build the frame larger than the yard cart (say, twice as wide) to expand the number of onions you can store on one yard cart.
Once the onions are done curing, pull the yard cart somewhere comfortable and settle down to the task of trimming off the dried tops and roots. When you’re finished, you’ll have a yard cart filled with ready-to-store onions, a picturesque accomplishment worthy of sharing on social media—if you have time for social media between building tables out of barn wood and turning milk jugs into mini greenhouses.