In the days of old, the concept of a refrigerator was not even a thought on the horizon. Our ancestors couldn't walk into the kitchen and pull on the door of their Whirpool, Kenmore, or Frigidaire to remove a snack because they lacked the power to run such a device. Despite this, they managed to survive by using root cellars, a concept from which we may have to borrow when the SHTF.
A root cellar is a cool, dark place that is well ventilated and used for the storage of food items, specifically root vegetables. The ideal temperature for a root cellar is between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to safely preserve the items store inside for a lengthy amount of time. In order to achieve this, you will have to find the ideal location for placement of a root cellar. It will also have to be constructed with proper materials to maintain effectiveness. Though this may sound difficult, in truth it can be as easy or as complicated as you wish to make it.
In order to get started on a root cellar, you must first decide where to put it. An area with good drainage is necessary as you do not want it to flood. Minimal sunshine and plenty of shade are vital to keeping it cool. Darkness is also important as it prevents food deterioration. Taking advantage of naturally sloping earth or hillsides are useful should you have access to such ground, but be sure to choose a place that you can still access easily.
The earth itself plays a major role in the construction of a root cellar. Since the earth is capable of providing a cool atmosphere, you want an earthen barrier around your root cellar, such as dirt or gravel. Earth also allows for a natural humidifying process which lends to the longevity of foods contained in a root cellar. Beyond natural components, you will need to construct the cellar itself to include ventilation. This is important for humidity as well as to push out gases created by the natural ripening of produce which, when accumulated, can create mold and mildew as well as hastening the ripening process. Ventilation should be done with two pieces of PVC pipe, one at each end, to create flow and move fresh air in while pushing stale, gaseous air out. Ideally these pipes will be capped to keep rodents and rain out but will have holes drilled in them to allow airflow.
Photo: Joyful Home
Once your location is selected, materials are the next thing you will need to acquire. These can vary widely and will likely need to be adjusted based on your property and current living situations. One of the easiest ways to build a root cellar includes taking advantage of the modern refrigerator or deep freeze; simply buy an old one or one that is no longer in working order, remove the motors, drill vent holes, and sink it into the ground. Another cheap option is to use a metal trash can inserted into the ground. If money and space are no object, you can always spring for the building of an underground root cellar large enough to cater to your needs. This can get pricy, however, and may not be within the financial means of everyone, so finding alternate means is worthwhile.
Another important addition to a successful root cellar insulation. Depending on where and how you build one, the earth may be enough to insulate it. In other cases, gravel can be added along with other types of rocks that are cool in nature. The top should be covered with a shield from direct sunlight such as a piece of wood and/or leaf litter or hay to promote the containment of coolness within.
Though the temperature of a root cellar may get and stay rather cool, there is no guarantee that the safe storage of meat items is possible. Temperatures inside the root cellar will fluctuate somewhat, but the temperature range of a properly constructed root cellar should be enough to extend the life of root vegetables greatly in comparison to those stored elsewhere. Since each day will count in a survival situation, prolonging the life of edible foods in a place such as a root cellar may well prove priceless.
Have you constructed a root cellar in preparation for TEOTWAWKI? What did you use to do so? Tell us about it in the comments!