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Issue No. 29 - September/October
THE PARTHENON OF ROOT CELLARS
MIKEWELLS: ILLUSTRATION BY JOE STEUBEN Our five-year search was over. We had found our home in the country: Sky Meadow, one hundred sixty acres of pasture, pines, junipers, bubbling springs and a panoramic 60-mile view of valley, mountain, sky and weather. It was nine months later before we took up residence in what-barring a subdivision and shopping center on the next section-will be our final move. We arrived, grossly overloaded, on June 1, after three days of "unusually heavy" rains. The mile and a half of rutted tracks from the country road had turned into an impassable morass of adobe muck. A neighbor rancher down in the valley led us 12 miles through the forest on graveled logging roads to a spot only a quarter of a mile from the cabin. We packed in essentials and made camp, awaiting the drying of the roads. While we waited out the three days of sunny, dry weather before the roads became passable, we explored our domain and planned our summer. The garden would go down there on that flat next to the orchard. We'd develop the spring uphill from the cabin first, and then the other two ... one for the garden and the other for the duck pond. One benefit of the cabin siding being off was that it would be easy to insulate and wire. We could get the poles for the deer fence over in that big stand of junipers on the east forty. I had to do something about that log shed before it collapsed. And that fallen-in root cellar .... Where did the time go? Suddenly we were well into our second summer and Joanie kept complaining that if the root cellar wasn't completed soon we could split the turnips, rutabagas and kohlrabi and use them for cordwood. And I'd horse another 12S-pound railroad tie into position and exclaim, "Only five more courses to go ... then comes the roof!" The 8' X 12' hole at the brow of the hill had, in fact, been started over a year before. WillIng summer visitors had wielded shovel, bar and pick with fervor and vigor-for a few minutesand then had suddenly become more interested in the beer in the spring box or the view or just conversation .•. the least of our needs during summer working weather. Desultory stabs were made at "the hole" after the spring thaw but seemed to deepen it little. Other priorities beckoned: tilling, planting the garden, getting in next winter's wood (ideally done the prior spring), repairing winter damage to the road, clearing the last mile of the REA pole line, improving the big spring, digging 21 eight-foot-deep pole holes for the
4_ September_Octo ber/The _Parthenon _oC...
4 sacks @ $3. for lagering home brew. They were further reinforced by pouring the base of the small retaining wall's directly onto the ties. gravel walk. Salvaged 1.00 Free Free Free Free Free Free Free 3 X 1. Both roofs were then decked with 1 X 12's and covered with tar peper.50 Spikes. ideal.. 40d ring-neck. 70@ $1. The inner door (between the dead-air space of the vestibule and the main cellar) is an old hollow-core type once used as a table.(During times of extreme cold we just shove a gunny sack into the pipe.. when grass has been planted right up to the eaves. with 90~pound.00 when outside temperatures ranged from the 80's to TOTAL $164.. Our early plans caned for mounding dirt completely over the roof. http://www. the deer ate our "root cellar". It seems to be ideal. This same contour was carried through on the vestibule where 3 X 12's were used for the ceiling.00 90-pound roofing.motherearilinews.cellar . though practical.. When the grasses die . set directly on sculptured hardpan and held by 3'Iengths of pipe driven through and into the ground .. and winter. instead of ties . . 1 roll Insulation (leftover) Tar paper (damaged in transit) Flue and butterfly Gasoline. voila! Farm~style Astroturf.) Then we laid a 2" X 12" ridgepole on the flat roof of the ties. The steps and retaining walls served as a foundation when we framed up the storage room's entry to accommodate the double exterior doors.. Adhesion of the concrete to both the timbers and the vestibule wall was insured by a number of large spikes driven into all mating surfaces. green roll roofing over all.2's (salvaged) Trim (salvaged) Hihges (scrounged) Our root cellar runs good . 10/1/2005 .X 12's served as both interior and outdoor siding. leaving adequate shank exposed to mate with the pour.00 1.. are mostly cosmetic. During the fall. Beer (estimated) 25. In summer.25 $87. For now. But these. 4 sheets @ $1. Final touches will be applied as weather and mood dictate: trim at the eaves and overhang. Our first winter we tried the hay bale method of root preservation . It didn't work . the lowest reading in our storage room was 34° .50 pounds Cement. but so much earth was used in changing the grade around the cellar to insure runoff of rain and snow-melt that there wasn't enough left for cover.50 I 12.00 3.00 Particleboard seconds. as the air cells between the veneer faces make an excellent thermal barrier.. 25 6. followed bya double layer of tar paper with dirt atop to create an insulation barrier grading from 12" at the ridgE:"! 4" at to the eaves. SKY MEADOW'S ROOT CELLAR: COST BREAKDOWN Used railroad ties. the inside varied only from 48° to 52° F ••.. the green roofing will match the surroundings nicely. and two 60-watt light bulbs left burning pushed it up to 40° .. The steps leading from grade down to cellar ..com/printable/1974 September October/The Parthenon of. rock retaining wall and facade.00 1.2'5 (salvaged) 1 X 1. .. when overnight cold dropped to 20° below and the days hovered between 5° and 10° above zero. inddentally. 0 0 6. it's good to know that our provender fares better this year than last.1 eve I were also made of ties. with fiberglass insulation between.00 the teens.. Later in the winter. 500 miles @ mpg @ 400/gallon Caulking Sand and gravel 2 X 4's (salvaged) 12 17.00 5..
logs. Not bad by country standards. with steps leading down into the vestibule and the inner door. Sometime around mid-August we had a hole hacked into the hill. earwig smashing and applying three tons of hay mukh . 8' X 12' horizontally X 7' deep. Joanie consulted her planting charts and announced.comlprintableI197 4 September October/The Parthenon of . Joanie. especially when we found a bunch advertised at $1. Having neither electricity nor a large drill motor at the time of conception.00 apiece . Therefore. doing its thing all by itself with a little help from Joanie •. 10/112005 . they bring $2.. Before lay-up I removed the bulges-by using a chain saw as a super- http://www... Three trips later a pile of 70 ties reposed grandly on the hill beside "the hole". like beetle picking. "I have to have a root cellar by September 1. but the pegging halved the quantity of nails required and ensured alignment of the timbers. if you can find them. And a few years ago they were free for the hauling!) The supply was only 80 miles away and we could haul 25 per load in the pickup.. Since the bottom of "the hole" was either basalt or hardpan 'dobe. Along about early July. root cellar. September 1:.. and half the last three feet of "the hole" came out in small pieces with the judicious application of sledge and wedge. We laid up our storage room's walls by interlocking the eightfoot ties in "crib" style . we needed only a minimal foundation.. Our ties. Here are some details of our cellar's construction: The contour of the grade dictated that the storage room's outer door be slanted at 45 degrees.motherearthnews. At a depth of four feet a ledge of basalt intruded. X 4's and were left in place after the concrete set to provide nailers for the later trim. "OK1 big mouth. This proved to be one of the wisest moves in the whole project. The forms were constructed of salvaged 2. the only drill bit for punching deep holes in ties. (Around here." Back to the pick and shovel. (Inddentally.. using the Nearings' built-up form method . you can't slide down a vertical cellar door. these days. the prospect of hauling all that 'sand and gravel from the riverbed 12 miles away-pius cement from our GO-mile-distant supply source--made the alternative of railroad ties attractive indeed •. While we waited for the concrete to cure. However. only six weeks behind schedule..) . You'll have a root cellar. Later. f1u~d "ship auger". Right?" We moved our goodies in on October 10.) . which had lain out in the central Oregon desert for decades. and when the ties went in they all fit nicely. Had the grade been steeper a straight walk-in would have been less trouble but not quite so traditional . The original plan had been to do the cellar in concrete and rock. each had to be fitted to its mate beneath. Spikes were in fact used in conjunction with the other method. is the single.. had developed both longitudinal crowns and humps across their short axes.ectrici. etc ..25 each. by then." (The garden was. Several modiftcations to my plans resulted.ty and a few other miscellanea... acquisition ofa portable generator and 1/2" drill motor made pegging not only preferable but possible. I had planned to toenail the chunks of wood together using 40d ring-neck spikes.00-$3. "OK. we thought it prudent to build a model of the cellar to 1"=1' scale so that foul-ups could be made on a tabletop with square homemade Lincoln Logs rather than at the jobsite.el..
I asked. As the sides of our cellar crept upward. is not an ideal oneman job... turnips.com/printable/197 4_September _ Octo berlThe _ Parthenon_ of_. Very little seeped through the caulking and. the gravel was free.. I made the shelves of 3/4" particleboard seconds at $1. potatoes. . By September's end the cellar's shelves were in place and its roof was going on. after drying.. We fitted a length of 6" bule flue in the center for ventilation. Besides. We'd considered a Buckboard floor of 2 X 4's until a neighbor pointed out what an ideal home that would make for black Widow spiders. It can be done. with a butterfly draft control installed near the top of the http://www.. Ties were laid-best side down-from wall to wall to create the ceiling. Above grade we stapled tar paper to the outside of the storage room before banking earth to the eaves.. This meant that more than half the ties had to be handled several times (moved from one side to another until a fit was found). 10/1/2005 . (At this point Joanie. all I wanted was a root cellar. I should mention. Horsing 12S-pound ties. especially as the walls grow higher. ''Would you settle for the Parthenon?") By early frost in September the roof was ready to go on . one eye on the slow progress and the other on the burgeoning garden. not the Taj Mahall" Visualizing the ultimate roofline. Apples and pears demanded harvesting . we prepared for backfilling by stuffing the cracks and unavoidable spaces between the ties with lambs' wool (courtesy of a neighboring rancher). rutabagas and kohlrabi yearned for release from their earthly confines (the parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes stay in the ground over winter) .. The long crown was compensated for by "cut and try" fitting. but a guy tends to get armweary .. but first shelves had to be built and a couple of loads of river gravel brought up for flooring. and still the work went on. "Look. Lest this sound as if the cellar was an allconsuming three-month project. it should be noted that during the same time a goat pole barn was under construction and those 21 foundation holes were progressing slowly. announced. The backfill was then liberally wet down into a mud slurry and tamped with a 2 X 4. . Timbers too twisted or crowned for the walls were set aside for the roof.. the walls became-for want of a better expression-selfgrouted. frostbitten tomato plants needed a home where their fruit could ripen .50 a sheet (to beat the almost prohibitive cost of pine or plywood).motherearthnews.THE PARTIIENON OF ROOT CELLARS Page 3 of S rasp-to eliminate the rocking of one beam upon the other..
10/1/2005 .motherearthnews..THE PARTHENON OF ROOT CELLARS Page 5 of5 http://www. ..com/printable/197 4_September_October/The _ Parthenon_ oC.
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