Thursday, October 8, 2009

Roots in my cellar

Sorry it's been awhile. Went out of town, busy at work, lotsa stuff happenin'. Too much to cover here in one post. So I'll split it up a bit.

First and foremost, our root cellar is finished! A big shout-out to my brother-in-law Caleb, aka Redeeming Restorations out of St. Paul, for finishing this in less than two days. He did a great job.

The root cellar is in the basement of our 1912 farmhouse. In ye olden days the farmhouse had a coal furnace, and a small room was framed in one corner of the basement to hold coal. We still had some coal dust on the floor in there. When they converted the coal furnace to fuel oil they put the fuel oil tank in the old coal room, but left the walls standing. I don't have any 'before' shots, so you'll just have to use your imagination.

Here's the little room, with its new door. These pictures aren't very good -- hard to take pictures in such close quarters. Plus the flash sometimes does weird things to the color.

With the door open, you can see part of the new shelves. The room is probably about 4' x 6' total.

Looking directly in, you see the fuel oil tank straight ahead, the shelves to the left and the ventilation ducts. You can also see a tiny bit of the insulation. Double foam insulation on the walls and the ceiling.

There are two vents. The vent at the top draws warm air outside, and the vent that droops down brings cold outside air in. I will be putting in a remote thermometer that I can monitor from upstairs. The vents can be closed if it gets too warm or too cold outside. Ideally the cellar should be kept between 35 and 45 degrees.

At first I told Graham that this was the room we would put him and his brothers in if they were bad. He believed me. I told him to crawl onto one of the shelves to see if it would fit him to sleep on. He did. He said, 'it fits, but it's cold.' I told him he could have a blanket. Then I told him I was kidding, and it was really a place to keep vegetables cool over the winter. He seemed disappointed.

I put our carrots and potatoes in the cellar today. Some of the potatoes show some green (yes I know the green parts are toxic), and I am wondering if those will store well. We'll see. I also put a pan of water on the floor to keep up the humidity. This first winter will be experimental, seeing how long the veges will store, how well the humidity stays high, how well I can regulate the temperatures with the ventilation. I am very much looking forward to it.


Mr. H. said...

Wow, our old house has a room in the basement with a big old oil tank in it as well, this room also has a coal chute. We use that room as part of our root cellar. How about that!

Congratulations on getting the root cellar together, you will not regret it. It is so nice to head downstairs in the middle of winter for some produce rather than having to go to the local grocer.

I look forward to hearing more about it.:)

Erin said...

Jo, it is awesome! My parents in Red Wing have the same room serving as a root cellar in their old farmhouse. We also used it for tornadoes! Slightly more comforting knowing you are surrounded by food at least, lol! I am so jealous, being out here in the land of no basements! Have fun organizing it all, I hope the first year of storing there goes smoothly!

Mama Pea said...

I LOVE root cellars! I think it's something about having food put by . . . like your own little grocery store except you don't have to pay when you leave.

Picture, please, of when you get the shelves piled high with all your home canned goods. So much fun to see. (Doesn't take a lot to thrill me, does it?)

Jo said...

Hello Mr. H -- That is a coincidence! From experience, can you tell me what veges store best in there? And what are the other parts of your winter storage system? I will have to search your blog to find out!

Hi Erin -- Why aren't you able to have basements in Virginia? Water level too high? Thanks for the nice comments. You are jealous of my basement, I am jealous of your climate!

Howdy Mama Pea! Yes, my basement is slowly turning into a grocery store, with my canned goods, freezers and root cellar. It gives me thrills too! Guess I'm a cheap date as well!

Mr. H. said...

If you can keep the temperature down and humidity up, and it looks like you can, your root cellar should be perfect for: carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, kholrabi, cabbage, apples, grapes, gherkins and cucumbers, peppers, endive, salsify, celery, celeriac, potatoes, sunchokes, and root parsley...I think that makes up the majority of what we have down there this year.

Upstairs in a cold but dry backroom we keep onions, garlic, canned and dry goods. In a warm dry (50-70°) area of the house we keep all of our squash. Most of our tomatoes are kept cool and brought in a few at a time to ripen but some are stored in the root cellar with the peppers.

Everything else is either frozen or dried.

Doesn't it make you feel good to have a nice supply of food in the basement.:)

Jo said...

Yes it does!