The Root Cellar


Our root cellar
Our root cellar with the bushels and bags of dahlia blubs

I’ve been in a lot of old houses, but I’ve never seen a root cellar in such original condition as the one in our house.   I think because Florence, who lived in the house for 80 years till she was 104 years old, used it until the last years of her life.  When we looked at the house before we bought it, it still had some preserves in ball jars on the old gray painted shelves.

There’s two  thermometers on the wall that always read 50 degrees.  One, a tiny glass tube about 2 inches long surrounded by metal and a newer, bigger plastic one.   Above them is a bare bulb with a pull chain.

The door to the Root Cellar is made from two pieces of hand planed wood, one of them 20 inches wide.   The walls are white washed plaster and there’s bars on the windows  (you can’t see the bars in this photo because of the sunlight).

At some point, probably Florence’s husband Harold, laid a slate and cement floor.  Maybe at the same time he put the electric in.

Jon and I  use the root cellar to store the dahlia bulbs and our fig tree  for the winter.  We keep metal garbage cans  there with extra bags of dog and cat food. All our paper files from the past 6 or 7 years sit on the shelves in cardboard boxes.

I don’t go there a lot, but when I do I always image what it must have looked like with its selves full of ball jars, bushels of apples and potatoes on the floor.   As I press my thumb on the old worn latch and push open the door I can almost see the blue jars glowing in the sunlight, that comes in from the small windows over head.  I imagine that having  all those shelves full of food is like having a woodshed full of wood and a barn full of hay.  A sense of security, survival for a season.

Someday I want to clean up the root cellar.  Sweep the floor and wash down the shelves.     I want to take care of it and preserve it just as it is now.  I can’t see myself ever using it for anything more than I already am.  But I think that maybe the next people who move into the house will appreciate in a way I can’t.    Maybe they’ll want to grow and can their own food and the root cellar will be one of the reasons they want to live here.

4 thoughts on “The Root Cellar

  1. Maria, I enjoyed this post. I love the nooks and crannies of old houses, including the cellars. As always your artistic eye brings something to the experience- “I can almost see the blue jars glowing in the sunlight”…It reminded me of a beautiful phrase I always remembered from some book that described “the glassed in colors” on the cellar shelves. Such a beautiful image. I enjoyed visiting the cellar with you. And I appreciate your stewardship of the space for the “next people who move in”. The caretaking that connect generations.

  2. Your description of the root cellar reminds me of the wonderful song, “Canned Goods,” by Greg Brown, an Iowa artist: I can almost smell the root cellar from my past! Thank you for your description and the chance to revisit one of my favorite songs!

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