Our Root Cellar

      “Long before the first refrigerator was sold, everyone had a root cellar.”    Quoting some dude I saw on You tube I would  just as soon not to give a link to. 😉


One of the simple pleasures in life for me is going down in our basement and grabbing some potatoes and onions from the root cellar. Five years ago, I read  an article about turning a corner of your basement into a cold storage area, so I decided to build one.

It really works. 🙂

From November through March we have a walk in cooler that costs nothing to run, harnesses  the outside air temperature as well as the earths natural temperature to keep things cool.  I never grew up around something like this so what a rush it is to discover something new (really it’s just a somewhat forgotten idea our great grandparents probably used, pr-electricity)

(The temperature in the winter months  ranges from 32 to 45 degrees in the cooler.)

I was fighting a flu bug yesterday and saw a recipe  for home-made potato soup   on face book.

This is the picture that snagged me:

potato soup

This was the first food that sounded good to me so I decided to make a batch.   When I went down to the root cellar to grab the potatoes and onions I thought, you know, I really should write a short  post on this topic.

Everybody needs a root cellar!  😉

One of the things that fascinates me is how many different ways there are to do the same thing. It can be overwhelming when you enter a new area of life.  All the well-meaning advice from all the “experts” on how to do this or that.  It can be something as simple as how to make a batch of potato soup,  how to build a harvest table, or how to construct a  root cellar in your basement. In construction, I’ve discovered, there are usually at least 3 ways to do the same task.   I am convinced many of us raised in the American educational system from the 1960’s and 70’s  had the creative impulse drummed out of us.  We are afraid to make a mistake. Ever heard the story about the little boy in art class who was told to draw a flower?

“We are going to make flowers.”
“Good!” thought the little boy,
He liked to make beautiful ones
With his pink and orange and blue crayons.
But the teacher said “Wait!”
“And I will show you how.”
And it was red, with a green stem.
“There,” said the teacher,
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at his teacher’s flower
Then he looked at his own flower.
He liked his flower better than the teacher’s
But he did not say this.
He just turned his paper over,
And made a flower like the teacher’s.
It was red, with a green stem….

( You can read the rest of this story here.)

I bring this up  just to encourage you.   If you happen across this post and have questions about making your own root cellar,  don’t hesitate to leave a comment. I would love to help you out if I can.  In my real life (when I’m not writing blog posts)  I am a carpenter who loves what he does and have been doing it for 35 years.  Does it make me an expert? Nada.  But I do know a thing or two about what doesn’t work. 🙂

One last thought..you don’t need to be living in the country to build a root cellar in your basement.  If you have a basement with an exterior window, you are on the home stretch!

If you have an extra few minutes, the following TED talk is well worth your while.  He talks about the natural creative impulse in children, plus he is funny!


This clip will give you an idea of how our cellar functions:

Here are a couple of links you might find helpful:

Here’s a link to 11 reasons  to consider having a root cellar

 Here’s another link from Organic Gardening on how to build a root cellar.


I would love to hear your thoughts on root cellars, the creative impulse, or anything  this post may have stirred up. DM

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4 Responses to Our Root Cellar

  1. There is an awesome book on root cellars: http://www.amazon.ca/Root-Cellaring-Natural-Storage-Vegetables/dp/0882667033 which you may already know about. We use a workshop building near the house as a root cellar – Nov to Mar, like you – we can keep potatoes, carrots, parsnips, leeks and beets out there. It has a large window which opens, and that is how we control temperature in there. It is not quite as handy as our basement, and we do have a goal to build in the NE corner (there is a boarded up window there we could use for the ventilation) in a couple of years. Maybe with cinder blocks? In the meantime, crossing the driveway can be done in slippers in a pinch, and it sure is handy to never run out of staple veg, especially when someone posts a delicious looking soup on their blog!
    thanks for stopping by! You mentioned building in the NE corner of your basement..are you thinking about putting an addition outside or partitioning inside your basement like we did? An insulated wood partition would be cheaper and easier to insulate, but it is fun to lay blocks 🙂 I enjoy doing it. DM

  2. emjayandthem says:

    Grew up with a root cellar; it was a small room built out off the basement with dirt walls and a door with a ring pull on it — and it was creepy as what. Spiders and mice loved it; it did keep the potatoes, onions and carrots cold, though. Geez I hated being sent in there to retrieve something for mom — ** shudder **

    You root cellar sounds much nicer 🙂

    I can totally visualize that root cellar @ your mom and dad’s place. Yep, those things were creepy :-)DM

  3. jennypellett says:

    I’ve just read that link about the little boy. That is so sad and bears out totally what I have become to know: that we are educating our children out of creativity.
    Thank you so much for this link. Here’s one for you, too, with apologies if you have already seen it:

    Good to hear from you Jenny! Thanks for the link 😉 DM

  4. shoreacres says:

    Well, the biggest obstacle to my root cellar is that I live in a town with no basements. True story. There may be a few around, but here on the coastal plain, the water table and the nature of the soil make basements impossible unless you’re willing to put out as much cash as the house would go for.

    However! I have a wonderful story somewhere about the painter, Georgia O’Keeffe. I’ll see if I can find it later and bring it by. She had the same experience as your little boy, but reacted – uh – somewhat differently!
    Can’t wait to hear the story about Georgia 😉 DM

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