Welcome to Home Shalom!

Welcome to Home Shalom and Shalom Farm. We pray your visit here be blessed. We are learning to walk in the Ways (Torah) of our Father YHWH and follow Y'shua, His Messiah until He returns to "set things straight". We call it a "Messi-Life". Our walk is neither tidy nor perfect, but it is filled with passion, devotion and desire to serve our King. We are learning to be humble servants, and to be good stewards of the things that He has entrusted to us: His Word, our marriage, our children, our family, our community, our health, and our farm. Hitch your horse and stay a while--our door is always open!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Our Root Cellar- Can you dig it?

Building our root-cellar was easy! (Ha ha) Just follow these simple steps:

1) Dig a hole. Our hole was 10 feet deep, 30 feet long, and 15 feet wide. It helps to have a neighbor who excavates part-time.

2) Prepare your foundation. We will have two separate rooms: a cold room and a wet room. The wet room will keep the earthen floor, and the cold room will be concrete.

3) Pour the foundation. Have some Amish people help, since they work cheap and don't mind wading in wet cement. Since they don't like getting their pictures taken, wait till they bend over.
4) Build your walls. The final height will be 9 feet, and end just above the final ground level. Note the PVC vent pipes at either end of the structure. Those will suck in outside air and bring it in to the ground level of the root cellar, since it goes through the cool ground it arrives quite cold. There will be vents in the ceiling of the cellar to vent the warmer air, thus facilitating constant circulation.

5) We capped our walls with 1 inch thick wood to support the roof, which in our case will double as another storage building. Note the vent pipe protruding past the ground level.

6) Find some small folks to handle the hardest work. Here are three of our non-union workers digging a trench for our sump pump drain.

7) Have a local Amish builder make a wonderful 12 x 32 wooden shed and have it delivered for next-to-nothing. It fit perfectly on the foundation and with some insulation and some caulk it makes a perfect roof. I secured it with "hurricane straps" to make it one with the foundation.

8) Add exterior doors at the top of your stairs. These doors and the stair "stringers" are made by Bilco. Very good quality doors, but the installation directions are horrible. These doors were 25% of the cost of the entire root cellar budget (not including the cool Amish shed).

9) Put a cool homemade (Amish) door on both the entrance to your cold room and your wet room, to keep the cold air trapped in the cellar. It makes you feel "all old fashioned" every time you go to get something from your root cellar. This one locks from the inside, but that was an oversight. :-)

10) Install your shelving. Don't use pressure treated wood, due to the off-gassing of poisons. These shelves are 2 feet deep and go up as high as possible. We have spaced the bottom to fit 5 gallon buckets (2 deep) on the floor, gallon and half gallon jars on the bottom shelf and the rest to fit Quart Jars. This have given us A LOT of shelf space. We will post pictures of the full cellar if we can afford the food to fill it with after all this fresh expense! For now, we'll have to be happy with 4 tube of left-over caulk and a set of ratchet wrenches.

We insulated the roof and doors with the silvery looking insulator board. It doesn't look very old fashioned, but it does the job (we hope) and acts as a nice reflector for our lanterns, which is how we have chosen to do our lighting downs stairs..,and that is pretty old fashioned...right?? :-)

Oh look.... my wife practically filled the root cellar in the time it took me to write this post! Hmmmmm. surprised? She says she's not finished yet.

We put all the shelves and barrels a minimum of 6 inches away from the wall. This creates the much needed airflow in a root cellar (according to the books!). The picture above is in our dry room. The barrles mentioned are on the opposite wall of the shelves (so no pix). We found several used 55 gallon plastic drums with two piece screw on lids used to import olives. They were about $15 each. SCORE! Things you will find in this room are, canned goods, grains, beans, onions, etc. We hope to add a shelf above the barrels if we need it for more storage space.

11) At the end is our wet room. Here we have laid stone on our earthen floor and installed a sump pump....just in case. This is our first underground structure on the property. Even though this is high ground, we have lots of springs and did not know what to expect; so we thought "better safe than sorry". We actually added water to this floor to increase the moisture in here. This room will house the root veggies that like it more damp and cold, like potatoes, beets, carrots, etc. As you can see...we have a good bit to go in this department because this reflect our ability to GROW these things...we have a lot of work to do on our soil...but THAT is another post!

The outside still needs paint, gutters and we plan to put a lean-too on each side with cement slabs. One side will hold our wood. The other side will be an out door work area for butchering and drilling and sawing. It may also be where next year's summer kitchen will reside, at least for next year. The front will have a little porch, permanent step and slab and porch roof. The inside still needs to be insulated and have electric run. (Use it while ya got it!) Half of it will be a small workshop, the other half, more kitchen supplies, empty jars, dry food storage, etc.

We are on our way! We hope you enjoyed the tour.

** What some people might not realize is that a root cellar is really only seasonal storage for many things; at least your freshest of foods. The temperature will raise and lower with the temperature out side, it just has the insulation of the earth to moderate it. So in the winter it is at it's coldest, in the fall it is lowering in temperature as it gets colder. In the Spring its temperature slowly raises (much slower than out doors, but it still does). In the summer it is a like being in a well shaded place, but there is no breeze. We noticed this August (Our first full month of having the root cellar). Our weather started to change (which SEEMED early). We started having cool nights and some breezy days, between hot days. On these breezy days, it was actually cooler outside in the shade with a breeze than it was in the root cellar! There is a good amount of humidity down there and it was cool, but clammy - upstairs in the shade it was not clammy, because of the breeze. We found that quite interesting. So much so, that I have decided to turn this into a year's weather monitoring project. We now have a thermometer with humidity gauge in both rooms of our root cellar and will add one to the outside wall at the entrance. I hope to record the temperate in both rooms, and outside, 2 times a month for the next year to see how it compares and observe the patterns. Those weird Home-schoolers... they never can pass up a good opportunity to learn something! :-)


Andi said...

Oh my goodness....so do the Amish travel and what about you...when the time comes to build ours! Great job Ben and gang, and of course to the wife who filled it...Praise Yah for the blessing!

ProdigalReturns said...

I'm so jealous. Seriously.

MommySetFree said...

Well.....It's takes them about an hour EACH WAY to get to our house in their buggy...they are only about 2-3 miles away! So it's not looking good to get them to your place. But WE have a car and you can see I have a devoted crew (all though a little on the short side)! ;-) Tee hee

MommySetFree said...

P.S. Do you remember the "apple cans" we did last year? They worked really nicely for our apples, taters, carrots, and beets, etc.. (Dig a whole, drill some holes in the bottom of some alumanum garbage cans, drop some rock in the bottom of the whole for drainage, set the can in and insulate the top with what ever you have.) We had to move ours, because we had a termite issue - but we hope to "replant them" in a different spot for more storage again.

preppingtosurvive said...

Thanks so much for this post! This is so timely for us since we just met with an excavator last week to begin ours.

I will probably come back with dozens of questions in the weeks to come.

If you don't mind my asking, could you give me a ballpark figure for the total project?

Excellent work, everyone!


Moira said...

Looks great guys!! You are blessed to be able to build something so beautiful!

MommySetFree said...

Prepping to Survive,

I cringe as I type this, because it did add up. I am sure there are "cheaper" ways to go about this, but we had some things we wanted to do certain ways, and we also had the building on top and labor in our costs... DH Says the Bilco doors was a HUGE chunk too. (And that could be done differently to reduce costs, especially if you have a north facing bank you can work it into. All of our materials were new (salvaged would save you alot), however we did got some great deals on our Amish Labor and wood. So our grand total (supplies and hired labor included) was about 12K. I hope that helps.

I hope your project goes smoothly. Do you have any kids? My kids LOVE the root cellar, we use a battery powered lantern to light it and they just think it is such an "adventure" to go to the root cellar for things. They feel like genuine homesteaders. ;-) There's just somethin' 'bout a root cellar.... :-)

preppingtosurvive said...

Thanks so much for the estimate. I figured there may be some variation in materials costs and so on, but that gives me an idea and I appreciate that.

We have been thinking/saving/planning for years. We are trying to decide if we will do any of it ourselves or if we will hire it all out to make sure it's done well (I have an image in my mind of concrete block walls that we lay forming something closer to an arch than a wall! ;-)

We were basing our plans on the Storey's Guide to Building a Root Cellar and the Bubel's Rootcellaring. I really like your damp room and separate dry room. We talked about that just last week. We'd also like to have the ability to use it as a storm shelter if necessary.

I love that you have a storage building on top. We had planned to mound ours and separately build an outbuilding on a concrete slab left from a previous barn (100+ year old farm). We may see if we can incorporate something like what you did into our design.

Yes, we have 5 children here on earth and one with the Lord. We feel so blessed by the life He has has called us to live. We also feel called to help others prepare for what we think will be very difficult times ahead. We are trying to minister to others who are interested in preparedness and self-reliance (in food production, livestock, etc- not in regards to God of course). We keep a blog also. www.preppingtosurvive.com You probably have some good thoughts you could contribute.

Thanks again!


Anonymous said...

Pamela, how awesome, this is definitely something that we would want to do.

growing up we had basements with a room dedicated for our foods, we would call it the cold room which kept our canned goods along with potatoes and other veggies during the winter and summer months.

We talk about having this one day when we make it out to the country.

Do your friends still have their house on the market? I checked the link and it was broken.

I'll have to share your post with my 16 year old son, he is so ready to being off grid...

MommySetFree said...


Its a pleasure to meet you. I've got your blog in my reader now. I am very much looking forward to visiting it when I can. :-)

Blessings and Shalom, pamela

Yes - David's house is still for sale! He just emailed me a couple days ago (from Israel) to tell me it he dropped it (AGAIN) to 129,000!!! He hired a realtor when he left - but still no buyers. It is such a unique property, nestled in an Amish valley....its only about an hour and 15 minutes away from us!!!!

preppingtosurvive said...

I think we have some friends in common- V. Brown and family. I spoke to her this morning at Bulk Food pick-up and we got to talking about canning and root cellars. I mentioned yours and your blog name I coudln't remember your last name (if it's listed), but she said she thinks you are the same ones they will be camping with in a few weeks.

Small world!

MommySetFree said...

Yep, that's us. ;-) And our peaches and plums may have even rubbed shoulders, because I had a few cases in that order too. ;-) It is a small world!

Fransene Miller said...

This is such a great post! Thank you for sharing it! We can't wait to do one on our new homestead. Our problem is in Florida you hit water just a few feet down, or less, so ours will have to be mostly above ground. Combine that with the high average temps and it becomes a real challenge to design one that will actually work.

We're temporarily going to be living in a made-over semi trailer till we get our house built, so we hope to put in a small one underneath and see how it works. The best ideas we've come up with include putting our house up on blocks about 3' and digging down underneath about 2', giving a total height of 5'. Not sure how to close in the space between the bottom of the house and the floor of the cellar. Our property is very high and dry for FL, but going deeper than two feet seems too risky.

Another idea is to build a small shed, cover with lots of dirt and vegetation, and make it look like a large landscape berm. Maybe integrating the two above ideas would work.

Any ideas are appreciated!


Unknown said...

W.O.W.!!! What a blessing to have that root cellar... it's gorgeous! I'm going to be studying it in more detail... bookmarking it right away! A friend who is a mason is going to help me at some point. Now to find the right location.
Enjoy the fruit of your labors!

{ T G L } said...

That is a truly impressive project - and so nicely executed!

Enjoy your cellar :)

This Good Life

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

This is wonderful. How I would love to live like this. You are blessed!

Farmgirl Heidi said...

Great post. Fantastic pics and descriptions. What an incredible amount of work to put up, and to think your wife already has it nearly filled up. That's great teamwork. Thanks for sharing.

Michelle, a heart at home said...

That's a beautiful cellar! Thanks for sharing all the photos and details.

Blair said...

What about water going down the stairs? My guy and I are trying to plan our root cellar, and wondering how to handle the stairs down to the lower room, and the inevitable rain that will wash down them. Did you put in gravel under the landing?

MommySetFree said...

That is a good question. We poured rough concrete under our stairs. It helps. However we still have more moisture than we care too. My husband suspects the stairs as the entry place. We have since added lean-toos on each side of the shed and a gutter is planned to go up for water collection. I WAS just running of the roof and hitting the base of the shed..that was NOT helping!It is getting better...but not yet perfected. I suspect that we should dry lock the interior walls of the "dry room" in the cellar. I would love to have someone walk through and pick Ben's brain on every last details of our construction so we could get to the bottom of it though. We still use it...but can;t use it for some things that need to be really dry. :-( living and learning...we press in!

Maria @ SurvivalFoodList said...

Wow, that is amazing! Very inspiring, thanks for the detailed post. We are planning something similar. I'm going to share your post on Facebook.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather said they would cut ice and store it in the winter. That would keep it cool far into summer

Kendra at New Life On A Homestead said...

Thank you so much for sharing your project! It has been a couple years since you wrote this post, I'm wondering if there is anything you'd do differently in hindsight? We're hoping to dig a root cellar soon, and can use all the help we can get! :) Shalom and blessings to your beautiful family.

MommySetFree said...

Hi Kendra,
We have been very pleased with the root cellar. We have had one glitch and that been drainage/ leaking. That was however a human error on our part, my husband thinks he laid the French drain pipe holes in the wrong direction. Oops! So we do get water in when we have really hard rains. It has been manageable for us with what and how we store things in there... But we would have more flexibility and less rusty canning jar lids - if our moisture was kept in better check and that little mistake had not occurred. He also did a little specific landscape/ excavation to assist our water flow/ drainage after the fact for our Sloan, and roof and got gullies and collection on the shed roof above the cellar, all these things made incremental improvements.
I love my cellar! I am so thankful for it!

TuErasBasura said...

Did you have to go through any building permits or such. Did you put any rebar in the walls or root cellar floor? Also, did you fill the cinderblock with cement?

MommySetFree said...

We did not require permits here where we are. However, in many places - permkits are required. So be sure to check your local authorities.

We did not use rebar or fill the blocks either.

Unknown said...

I would be interested in hearing about the temperature and humidity reading that you took.

Sweet Gypsy Cowgirl said...

Just found your blog today and subscribed. How absolutely wonderful! Thank you for sharing this post and all the others. Good to meet friends in Christ who are also homesteaders. I am just starting the homestead process and I am afraid I will have to be a vegetarian when it comes down to it. I am a total and complete pansy when it comes to butchering. Grew up on a homestead and when I left home at 17 swore I would never butcher another animal again. Point being? I am going to need a root cellar! May God keep and hold you in His peace.