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Root Cellars and Bright City Lights

By Sharon
November 14, 2012

The last time I made my way out of the darkness of a root cellar was in 1952 and I vowed then I'd never return. So why is it that now, 60 years later, I'm longing for a root cellar?

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Name: Linda
Tucson, Arizona
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quietyard
Nov 13, 2012 8:38 PM CST
Sharon I loved those wonderful memories of your root cellar ! Smiling Too me that is true wealth when you can produce and store food to sustain a family...all without running to the nearest grocery store ! That is one of the reasons I admire the Amish who make due without outside help. If we could all become more like that natural disasters would be a bit easier to survive, wouldn't they ? So called progress maybe really just makes us more dependent, I think sometimes. Crying

My German grandmother had a basement that used to scare me like your root cellar. It was very dark and had these strange doors in the walls which I guess were built in cabinets.....I was too scared of what was behind those little doors to ever open them !! Never got over the fear of that basement ! Hilarious!
" And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden" Genesis 2:8
Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
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Sharon
Nov 13, 2012 9:38 PM CST
Hi Linda,

Sounds similar, your grandmother's basement.
I admire the Amish too, and anyone who is independent. I think you are right about progress. On the other hand, what would we ever do without our computers?

Funny what we remember, isn't it?
I remember the smell and the fear, but I can also still see those shelves of canned goods and the baskets. And I can feel the spiderwebs. Ugh.
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Name: Linda
Tucson, Arizona
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Morning Glories Region: United States of America Amaryllis Hummingbirder
Region: Southwest Gardening Echinacea Roses Birds Seed Starter Plumerias
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quietyard
Nov 13, 2012 9:44 PM CST
You are right I would miss the computer though I sometimes feel it controls too much of my day if I let it. Blinking
" And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden" Genesis 2:8
Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle
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Sharon
Nov 13, 2012 9:56 PM CST
I'd be very lost without my computer.
I wouldn't have a place for all my words!
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Name: Linda
Tucson, Arizona
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quietyard
Nov 13, 2012 9:58 PM CST
I agree We would hate to lose your words so keep that computer running ! Thumbs up
" And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden" Genesis 2:8
Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle
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Sharon
Nov 13, 2012 10:02 PM CST
That's a sweet thing to say, thank you.
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Name: Linda
Tucson, Arizona
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quietyard
Nov 13, 2012 10:04 PM CST
You are Welcome!
" And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden" Genesis 2:8
Name: Marilyn
Greenwood Village, CO (Zone 5b)
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CDsSister
Nov 13, 2012 11:25 PM CST


I agree with Linda I agree I agree We would very much miss your words. I love to go back and re-read some of them.

Thanks for sharing your heart with us. Our hearts and minds will be the "root cellar" for your words.

Group hug

Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
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Sharon
Nov 13, 2012 11:53 PM CST
Oh sweet! Preserving my words.
Clever, Marilyn! Very clever. Big Grin
Thank you.
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Name: shirlee
southeast (Zone 6b)
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mistyfog
Nov 14, 2012 12:54 AM CST
Yes, wonderful story. I can feel the horrors of a small girl's imagination in such
an environment. You expressed all those emotions so well.

We built a root cellar when this house was
built. Plenty of florescent light, no windows, but I didn't like the earth floor, so I laid brick
for the floor, and also built a brick potato bin in the floor. Hard to
believe it now, but that potato bin was dug out with a spoon, then
lined with brick, and a wooden hinged top to cover it. It is on the
north side of the basement. Measures about 4 ft x 3 ft wide x 4 ft deep.

The cellar keeps veggies for most of the winter, some longer than others.

Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle
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Sharon
Nov 14, 2012 1:05 AM CST
You dug a potato bin with a spoon? Oh goodness, unbelievable!

Your root cellar sounds like a wonderful place, lucky you. I especially like the idea of the brick floor. And florescent lighting. No creepy darkness for you.

Thanks Shirlee, so glad you have that cellar.
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Name: Vickie
Elberfeld, Indiana, USA (Zone 6b)
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blue23rose
Nov 14, 2012 5:55 AM CST
Really enjoyed the article, Sharon. Makes me wonder why my house doesn't have a root cellar, since part of it was built in 1912 and the other part even older than that. The part built in 1912 has a basement, but no outside access. I am guessing that it did have a dirt floor when built though so maybe it was a root cellar and just didn't have a door outside.

I love all the pictures in the article, especially the first one. Still see a few of those cellar doors around.

Vickie
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Name: Pegi Putnam
Norwalk, Ca. zone 10b
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Samigal
Nov 14, 2012 8:28 AM CST
I love the story about the root cellar, don't think I've ever seen one, but in the 40's we lived in a big old house that had slanted wooden doors on the outside of the house. Don't think I ever tried to go down there. I do remember the old basement so maybe that was an outside exit. That old house in Minneapolis isn't around any more, kind of went the way with progress. I'm glad your story brought back these old memories for me. I have to ask my DH if he remembers having a root cellar when he lived back in Minnesota, he seems to remember a lot of his early memories.
Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
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Sharon
Nov 14, 2012 9:27 AM CST
Vickie,
You might have had a root cellar that wasn't attached to the house in any way, but instead was built into the ground much like this picture:
Thumb of 2012-11-14/Sharon/c3fe5d

It's located in Pennsylvania and I borrowed the image from this site: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/out...

There are more images of root cellars, different types, if you click that link.

Pegi,
I don't think I've seen or known of a root cellar in the far western states, might be because of a different climate, I'm not sure. And sometimes those slanted doors covered a coal bin as well, so I guess you just never know what you will find behind old doors. Interesting though. I'm usually curious enough to want to know what's behind them. Big Grin
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Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
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MaryE
Nov 14, 2012 9:49 AM CST
The root cellar we had in central Oregon (high desert climate) was dug into a hill. Only the north facing door was visable, reached by going down a few stairs between slanting hillsides. It was lined with stacked volcanic rock, angled slightly outward as the walls became higher. Before we moved there, the roof had collapsed, pretty much filling the space with dirt, logs and the remains of old boards. We cleaned it out, rebuilt the roof and used it for several years. An adult could stand upright easily in it. The floor was dirt, it had shelves along the sides and a box for potatoes at the end. And a good light in the ceeling with a switch right beside the door.

I went looking online for a book about root cellars. Instead I found a poem. The author either has a vivid imagination or memories of a poorly maintained root cellar.


Root Cellar by Theodore Roethke

Nothing would sleep in that cellar, dank as a ditch,
Bulbs broke out of boxes hunting for chinks in the dark,
Shoots dangled and drooped,
Lolling obscenely from mildewed crates,
Hung down long yellow evil necks, like tropical snakes.
And what a congress of stinks!
Roots ripe as old bait,
Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich,
Leaf-mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks.
Nothing would give up life:
Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.


I'll keep looking for that book.
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
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Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle
Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Ferns Daylilies Irises Cat Lover
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Sharon
Nov 14, 2012 9:59 AM CST
Mary, I love your description of the one you had. I can see it in my mind!

And I also love the poem, mostly exaggerated as if in the mind of a child, but I'll bet it's entirely possible for some of those plants to decide to grow and turn white and yellow for lack of light then die and slime when they give up. And the roots did rot and stink, just as he says.

Yes, a great poem!! Thank you for finding it and sharing it with us! I'll go around all day smelling Roots, ripe as old bait and thinking of dirt breathing a small breath!
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Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
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MaryE
Nov 14, 2012 10:16 AM CST
This Amazon.com page has several good root cellaring books. Do's, don'ts, how to's and even recipes!

http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=root+cellar+book&t...
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
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Name: Margaret
Near Kamloops, BC, Canada (Zone 3a)
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mcash70
Nov 14, 2012 10:37 AM CST
Loved this article Sharon, great job as usual. Thumbs up
Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle
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Sharon
Nov 14, 2012 11:06 AM CST
Thanks Margaret.

I happen to know you have a type of cellar there at your house. Sometime when it isn't covered in snow maybe you could share a picture of it with us. Wait till summer, OK?? Smiling
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Name: Margaret
Near Kamloops, BC, Canada (Zone 3a)
Region: Canadian Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Tip Photographer Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Charter ATP Member
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mcash70
Nov 14, 2012 11:36 AM CST
I will do that Sharon, it's not very big but it's great to store tuberous begonia's, dahlias, any kind of bulb, geraniums. The past couple of years I have stored a few potted daylilies in there. And yes, I will wait til summer. Green Grin!

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