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Root Cellar-Anybody Have One, Want One or Ever Build One?

Discussion in 'The Harvest: Recipes, Canning, Preserving' started by baymule, Aug 28, 2014.

  1. Aug 28, 2014
    baymule

    baymule Garden Master

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    Many of you live in way different climates than I do. You almost never see a house built around here with a basement. In the early settler days, houses were built off the ground to take advantage of air flow. There sure weren't basements, maybe a smoke house and rarely a root cellar.

    I want to build a root cellar, not a right away thing, but I am playing with the idea. In our heat, I think it would be a good way to "keep" root crops and my canned goods in. So let's kick this around, have some discussion and talk root cellars. If you have a root cellar, post pictures and tell us what you like or what you would do better.

    Have you ever built a root cellar? Tell us how you did it. Did your parents/grand parents have a root cellar? Reminisce and tell us what you remember.

    Do you "know" any root cellars? How are they built and what are they built of? The whole roof thing--how is it made and what keeps it from collapsing under the weight of all that dirt?

    What fruits and vegetables store well, and what varieties of what fruits and vegetables store better than others? I ordered watermelon seed for next spring called Scaly Bark from Baker Creek. It is supposed to be a good keeper. I am sure that I won't have a root cellar next fall, but I find the watermelon intriguing and I had to have it!
     
  2. Aug 28, 2014
    digitS'

    digitS' Garden Master

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    When I was a young guy :old, I dug a cellar and then put a woodshed above it. It was kinda okay. The fact that I wasn't planning to use it long was a good thing. A more substantial cellar was put in within a couple of years and my wood-walled cellar became obsolete (just a few years before the whole thing began to collapse).

    Poles, that's what I built it out of. The more substantial ones might be called logs. Those were used for the ceiling altho, there wasn't a huge amount of soil weight on it. That soil was nice and dry, also. The woodshed roof extended quite a bit beyond the walls of the cellar.

    The woodshed cellar was cooler and worked better for roots than the basement cellar that replaced it but that basement is still there. It is also a lot like what I have under my current home (100+ years old). One room has a dirt floor ... since our soil is so gravelly, I could say it has a gravel floor.

    Here's something for you to look thru, Bay':

    Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables, Mike and Nancy Bubel. I found it interesting.

    Steve
     
  3. Aug 28, 2014
    journey11

    journey11 Garden Master

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    We have a root cellar out at my dad's farm, dug into the hillside behind the house. I've stuck my head in there, but am pretty much too creeped out to go in. Who knows what's in there! :eek:

    It has a little damage to the top corner on one side, letting in a little light at the top, but the roof has held up. The front of it looks like a little shed, but the majority of it is beneath the soil. It has two doors, one before the other on the front, for keeping the air temp more constant I guess. One year a swarm of feral bees built a hive between the two doors, a double layer of comb that hung in giant sheets from the top of the door jam down nearly half way. It was beautiful. But they didn't survive the winter for whatever reason.

    I desperately want/need what I guess you'd call a "cold closet" built into one corner of my basement. (DH has promised...but when will it materialize, we shall see.) Our basement is too warm in the winter since the wood furnace is down there. My canned goods would keep better if I could keep them cooler and darker. My laundry room is also down there, so it would be handy.

    One of our less frequent members here linked to blog pics of the cold closet he built. I love it. It is exactly what I want for mine. Also check out these wonderfully organized canning shelves. Who knew you could have shelf-envy? :D The chalkboard labels are ingenious!
     
  4. Aug 28, 2014
    seedcorn

    seedcorn Garden Master

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    Folks had one in KY. It was new version, cement box covered in dirt. 4" walls, floor and ceiling. 8' X 12'.

    They are remarkable to keep root crops and fruit plus the canned good storage.

    Sometimes you can find aluminum trailers that are being discarded, bury that. It won't rust.
     
  5. Aug 28, 2014
    happy acres

    happy acres Garden Ornament

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    I don't have one, but I want one! When I was a girl, (a few years back) , we had an unfinished (read dirt) area under the front half of the house and porch. That's where we stored potatoes. Canned goods were put under the stairs in the basement.
     
  6. Aug 28, 2014
    canesisters

    canesisters Garden Master

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    ... wondering if you could get the big, cememt 'box' for a septic tank and use that...
    Without the plumbing, of course!
    Hummm, access would be a problem. Crawling down a ladder with a box full of canning jars doesn't sound like a good idea.
    Somewhere on BYC someone build their coop into the side of a hill so that it would stay cool in the summer. I dont' remember if he ended up with moisture problems though.
    This is a REALLY interesting idea. Can't wait to see what everyone comes up with.
     
  7. Aug 28, 2014
    baymule

    baymule Garden Master

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    Steve, I already bought that book and have read it extensively. I am itching to build a root cellar of my own! I thought it would be fun and informative for us to discuss root cellars, there are so many great ideas coming from great people on this forum, we can all benefit from the discussion. Anybody got pictures????
     
  8. Aug 28, 2014
    bobm

    bobm Garden Addicted

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    On my mother's farm in the old country, her grandfather dug a root cellar that was about 8 foot underground and quite large. I don't know how large, but large enough to store quite a few large wine barrels for making and aging wine from his vineyard. Large amounts of potatoes as well as other crops were stored there too. The whole thing, walls and floor was lined with stones and stood under a large grain building for added protection from the frozen ground 5 feet deep. During WW 2, the Russian army came through and my parents exited out their back door with just their clothes on their backs and into the forest on horseback. My mother's maid became the commisar of the commune that was established on the farm as the center of operations due to the large size of the house and farm buildings as they served as central farm produce storage and the house was used for offices. A few years later this maid managed to burn down the house , barns, etc.. now there is nothing left other than the land that was eventually split up into small family farms. Just think ... I could have stored my own home grown wine there too. But, Oh well! :duc
     
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  9. Aug 28, 2014
    so lucky

    so lucky Garden Master

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    Wow, that's quite a story, bobm.
    I remember a cellar from when I was a kid, belonging to some neighbors. We spent several hours in it one time when a tornado came through. I just remember a dark spooky place, to a 10 year old, even though I'm sure the lady had it fixed up for storm protection as well as food storage. There were cots in there. Must have been pretty big. It seemed to be built into the side of a hill, but perhaps since it was old, the hill could have been "made" around the cellar years ago. No, on second thought, I believe it was at the edge of a natural valley, so the hill was probably natural. I don't even remember if the walls were rock, cement or wood. Just spooky.
     
  10. Aug 28, 2014
    baymule

    baymule Garden Master

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    Keep the stories and comments coming. See, this is my point-people used root cellars and now we don't. We just go to the store and buy something that was grown 1,000 miles or more away. What if we grew crops that stored well and put them in our root cellars? A man at church (in his mid 80's) told me about his parents root cellar, they had watermelon in December! He said the sides were lined with shelves, loaded with glass jars of canned vegetables. They stored many of their food items in the root cellar and had fresh fruits and vegetables long after the season had passed.

    @bobm if you were still there, you could have used the root cellar, but then we wouldn't have you here on this forum, dispensing your wisdom! But it sucks that your family lost everything. What country was "the old country"?
     
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