Underground Root Cellars
Before the advent of refrigerators, particularly when you were growing your own fruit and vegetables, root cellars or underground pantries were a perfectly normal building or underground room for farms in the northern hemisphere to have. When Nicki was a child, she used to stay in an old convict built farmhouse in Mittagong, NSW, for her family's Autumn holidays, and that farmhouse had an underground root cellar. So even in Australia, the older farmhouses had such rooms or buildings. But why would we need one today when we have refrigeration? Well, we may not always have refrigeration, but even if we do, a root cellar or a cellar pantry has advantages which refrigerators don’t. They provide a lot more space than in a typical fridge, which is useful when you have a harvest glut. Instead of using electricity to power it, you use the thermal mass of the Earth to keep the temperature constant, far below the ambient temperature outside in Summer and above the night time ambient temperature in Winter.
Years ago we found the plans for an underground root cellar and it has been on our To Do list ever since. The plans have been modified over and over again as we have struggled with structural engineering requirements of building underground. Also, as we had refrigeration and never seemed to have a glut of produce, other tasks always rose to the top in priority. Yet as our gardening skills increase, the gluts are more frequent so the idea of building a root cellar has reared its head again.
We have now started the construction and inch by inch the stone walled root cellar is emerging into reality. We won’t be working on the root cellar during the Sustainable Living Weekend although the idea of a working bee at another time has occurred to us. However, you might be interested in our plans and thoughts so you can start on your own root cellar.
Foundations dug. Foundations formed up, ready for the concrete pour. First course of stonework emerging.