Friday, August 16, 2013

Building a Cold Cellar for the Suburbs

                 One of the most important things we can be doing during economic and political uncertainty is taking reasonable steps within the framework of our lives in order to be more self sufficient. Depending upon our situation and lifestage, it may not be realistic for us to become completely self sufficient, but most people can probably be more self sufficient than they are just now.  In some places in Russia, the cold cellar is far more a fixture than it is in American homes today. This is an idea that probably should be revisited.
                    The simplest design for a cold cellar works for those in townhomes, and even some rental houses. Purchase an American made metal trash can. (The American ones have a tighter fitting lid and this is important)  Dig out enough soil to bury it.  Then, put the can in the ground in a well drained site,  with about two inches of the top protruding from the ground.  Place a small amount of gravel in the bottom.

(Picture from: http://www.earthineer.com/content.php?blogid=2610  )


               You can store a lot of potatoes in here, so long as you alternate bags of potatoes with straw.    Onions and apples could also be stored here, but different items are compatible with one another.  Potatoes are not as compatible with onions. You can ideally, in a four season climate, stock potatoes in November, and be finishing them up in April. Root vegetables store particularly well this way.

              Store with the lid on and with a piece of wood over the top secured with a rock or something else that's heavy enough to prevent animals from accessing your cold storage. You should check this at least every couple of weeks, use what you can, and compost anything shriveling or obviously rotting.

Note that the concrete block on all four sides here give you the space to allow a piece of plywood on top without the handle being too high.  (Photo:  http://www.earthineer.com/content.php?blogid=2610 )


 These are some of the things that can be stored there:

  • Winter squashes
  • Pumpkins
  • Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
  • Apples (store separately, as they release ethylene gas that will spoil other vegetables)
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Rutabagas
  • Cabbage  (all kinds, my favorite)
  • Beets
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Leeks
  • Pears
  • Dried beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Winter radishes




                    If you own a more rural home and you plan to remain there for an extended period of time then you can invest more time and money in a larger set up.

                  

34 comments:

lotta joy said...

The top of the garbage can exposed would allow the sun to heat up the insides, wouldn't it? I am amazed at your ability to take care of so many matters given the heavy work load you have on your farm, and all the aches and pains.

I've never asked this, but does the rest of your family share in your endeavors?

BBC said...

There was a fair number of them when I was a kid but I haven't seen one for years now.

When hiking ALWAYS carry bells,whistles and pepper spray. ALSO be sure to identify the type of bear in your area by looking at their feces. The black bear has berries,grass and nuts in their dung. Grizzlies has bells,whistles and pepper spray cans in theirs.

Gorges Smythe said...

On my side of the mountains, I'd add some garbage bags of dry autumn leaves on top of the lid for insulation.

Ian H said...

Interesting! What temperatures do you see for winter lows?

JaneofVirginia said...

Ian, There is a lot of Winter variation in Virginia depending upon where you are in relation to the mountains. For my area, the lowest we see is about -3 C. However, this method has been used all over the US Eastern seaboard. This is another link with more information:
http://www.almanac.com/root-cellar-build Thanks for posting.

JaneofVirginia said...

Yes, it many places, a bag full of leaves or straw for insulation would be important. What you need to do in your area could vary a bit depending upon humidity and heat. BTW, these are EMP proof in the event that for some reason your sweet potatoes don't like EMP ! LOL

JaneofVirginia said...

Very important point ! Unlike you, I don't have Grizzlies here. The only bears we have are black bears which we see fairly frequently. Generally, if you make some racket, hit pots and pans or use a triangle or tambourine (which I have in the outbuildings) the bear goes. Otherwise, I just pretend I haven't seen them and walk away. If we had grizzlies then I would move about here a great deal more cautiously than I do. Snakes are my biggest fear, and this is one reason you need to pay attention when accessing your cold cellar can.

JaneofVirginia said...

Yes, they do. Right at the moment I have too many projects going and I am in a bit of a mess. To catch up, I need some cooler weather and more people to stay home and help me. I take care of the horses, my husband takes care of the alpacas, so all I do for them are monthly dectomax shots and the enjoyment of playing with them. I do the dog meds and shots, and some of the changing of water buckets, but my husband does most of the feeding. My sons take care of the ducks and chickens. One son does all the work on my diesel car, usually ahead of schedule if I just buy the parts over the internet. I could use some help with normal cleaning and maintenance. I am considering a short term person to help me catch up and work with me, but I have some reticence in allowing someone we don't know to have information about the layout here. Everyone else I know is working on their own farms !
One thing that helps is that I really enjoy doing a wide variety of things, so it doesn't all seem like work. My daughter and her boyfriend recently helped us to complete some fencing in exchange for a nice dinner here, so it was a great deal from my perspective !
My husband enjoys cooking, and I don't, so a lot of food preparation is not my problem and it frees me to do other things. I did make three birthday cakes this week though !
Yes, I think the top of the can does heat, depending upon the time of year.

kymber said...

Jane - we have several make-shift cold storage in our areas...they are called boxes - bahahahahah! we are able to keep potatoes, onions, carrots, apples, rutabaga, turnip, cabbage, etc. in our basement over the winter. the basement is pretty cool and damp, as you know, so for now, we use it. we plan on building a proper root cellar one day - ya, that's what we tell ourselves anyway. but i have also seen people bury an old fridge or freezer and that apparently works really well. jam is always keeping his eye out for freezers or fridges on our twice a year big garden pick-up. that would be a real score for sure!

your friend,
kymber

JaneofVirginia said...

Kymber, I have resisted having one of the larger varieties of these, because I fear snakes. I also think that any hungry self respecting black bear could get into it, but I am told that many people here have one, and that the bears simply don't. The metal trash can is a great stop gap for many, and some people have several of these so they can store compatible vegetables and fruit together. It's an interesting idea, especially since my refrig. is apparently not that humid.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

Very good idea, I have a root cellar but mice become a problem in there. I think the can will be more secure, if I can find one, I have food grade storage barrels, they might work. Oh and you can't put potatoes and onions together because the onions get in the potato's eyes.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks for your post. My husband saw this post and also wondered if another type of can could be used as he says with a high water table the can will rust faster than we would like it to.

lotta joy said...

I wish you hadn't answered my question because I am feeling weak just reading it. Another honest question here: I am taking vitamin B12 nasal spray, trying to get some energy. It helps a bit, but compared to you, I'm already dead and no one has covered me with dirt yet.

Would CoQ10 help me? I know you suggested it, but is it energizing? I've lately noticed my A-fib and B-fib becoming very noticeable after I eat. Even eating tires me out.

If I were younger and alone, I could think of nothing more honorable than having a room in your home and doing the cleaning and cooking just to free you up for the jobs you have. (I don't do windows)

JaneofVirginia said...

Lotta Joy, Your offer to come and help is appreciated, but in all honesty, I think someone as talented as you as a writer should be focused on other things besides the menial chores I would rather not do ! I sent a separate e-mail to you concerning the vitamin and supplement issues. Thanks for your post.

Sandy said...

Jane,

Great idea! My husband and I were talking about the problem with the water around the can. Buy a gallon of roofing tar, paint the outside of the can it will make it water proof. You know eventually the can will rust.

Linda said...

Jane,
I would never hire anyone and let them see what you have. If you can afford to hire help, have a talk with your children and see if they would take on some extra things for cash or maybe a bigger incentive to them, whatever that might be. Working together, you all could manage what work you have to do without compromising your peace of mind and security.

JaneofVirginia said...

Linda, I agree. I have been using the kids and paying them to help when whatever it is, is above and beyond what a normal person would do at home. I think it's important to keep layout of the farm and barns as private as possible. You never know what someone will mention to another person, who might not be so trustworthy.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks Sandy, Yes, roofing tar is a great idea. Interestingly, these do rust faster than you might think. I use one of these cans in the duck house for duck feed, directly on a slightly damp dirt floor. The can rusts and leaks about every 3-4 years. This year, we started placing it on a doubled tarp. I think you could put a tarp in the hole before inserting the metal can. Thanks for your post.

BBC said...

Digging a hole can be hard in a lot of areas but let me remind you of something. Hydraulic mining..... To loosen up hard packed earth and rocks. Use a high pressure washer to blast into the hard packed earth to break it up and then scoop it out. If you don't have a high pressure washer a garden hose with a nozzle on it will also do, wear some rain gear.

BBC said...

Would work better if you put it on a few cedar boards (or any boards) so it has ventilation.

JaneofVirginia said...

Cedar is wonderful and even survives here !

JaneofVirginia said...

I have a diesel auger with multiple sized attachments for different types of fence posts, and for excellent large deep bowls for trees. Before that, I did use a garden hose to loosen dirt off rocks before chipping them out with a pick axe. What a mess ! LOL
Thanks for your posts.

BBC said...

I wish I had a diesel auger, and a backhoe to bury the bodies with, on the other hand I also wish I had a stiffer dick. Hahahaha

JaneofVirginia said...

Such vulgarity ! This is a family blog !

Seriously, I got the auger last year from a dealer across the mountains who sells item by item on Craigslist. Came with the warranty, guidebook, and original receipt too. It attaches to a truck and travels like a trailer. There is no end to some of the amazing stuff which comes across Craigslist.

Rick Kratzke said...

I really do like this post and I'm gonna try this out. Thanks for sharing.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks, Rick. Let me know what you find. I would imagine its effective in some areas more than others.
A good friend of mine tried this years ago in the cold upper peninsula of Michigan. Hers froze solid, so I think some places need something more substantial. I do know that large cold cellars are used in Alaska with quite a bit of success.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

We've been looking into food storage too based on some of the old homesteading books and we are watching the BBC series on the Ministry of Food regulations for wartime England. Good information on rationing and how to garden for maximum production, sustainability.

JaneofVirginia said...

Kathy, That's an excellent point. The British regulations for wartime England had very good and comprehensive. Sadly, my relatives who lived through the war, gardened an allotment, and stored it all without refrigeration are all gone now, so I can't ask them for their ideas and suggestions with regard to food storage. Generally though, London and suburbs are cooler than the Virginia climate I now find myself in.

BBC said...

I'm not as obsessed with it all as I once was. I'm getting old and figure that there will be enough food around here until I die.

BBC said...

CRAZY, BUT AN INTERESTING ADVENTURE.

JaneofVirginia said...

There may be, but I am also trying to teach my kids so that they will survive difficult and challenging times.

JaneofVirginia said...

It IS fun.

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JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks for the encouraging words, Josh.