Update on the Straw Bale Root Cellar

So we recently figured out how to turn on stats for the blog and it turns out that many people get here by searching for “straw bale root cellar,” which is something I posted about earlier after shamelessly stealing the idea from Throwback at Trapper Creek.

It's a Futurama joke. Sorry
Love the Tentacle!

It's a Futurama joke. Sorry

Unfortunately, our straw bale root cellar failed miserably. While Throwback built her cellar in the barn we, sadly deficient in barns, built ours under the back porch and stretched a tarp overtop of it. End result was that critters and water got in resulting in the food and straw bales being eaten and rotted respectively. Bummer. But live and learn, food storage is a skill and, despite losing about 30% of what we stored over the winter I think we did alright. Mostly we don’t want anyone following our example thinking it’s a road to success.

And the great thing about gardening is that, even when food goes bad, it’s not wasted. It’ll either get fed to the poultry or composted. Either way it turns into healthy soil and healthy food. It’s just a matter of time.

  7 comments for “Update on the Straw Bale Root Cellar

  1. April 25, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    So sorry to hear that. Last winter I was thinking back to the days when my grandparents had a root cellar. How useful those were. Unfortunately we live with a very high water table and thus no way to dig down a story.

    Alas, for now we’re out of options on a root cellar here. Hope you can figure it out!

  2. April 25, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Oh, and you should see the things folks search for on my blog. Silly.

  3. garth
    April 25, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Silly is the least of our search terms…

    I’m not concerned about our losses in storage. I’d like to do better, of course, but there’s a certain amount of loss that one can expect when storing vegetables.

  4. April 26, 2009 at 3:17 am

    Sorry it didn’t work for you, but the best part of the post was reading how the veg gets turned into compost – even though it wasn’t able to feed you, in a way it did by helping the new veg that you are planting this season. I read about the straw bale root cellar idea but couldn’t get my mind around it this winter, so I did the “cool dark place” storage on its own. I guess its an ongoing challenge, right?

  5. April 26, 2009 at 8:28 am

    All we really lost from the bales was some apples, actually. We had moved the potatoes out because it was too humid in there. The onions never even made it out there, I don’t think. Garth’s entertaining picture is actually onions and potatoes that were stored in a closet in an unheated room but that still got overenthusiastic come spring.

    For some reason I don’t mind losing apples as much as I would mind potatoes and onions. so it’s a relatively small price to have paid.

  6. April 29, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    G&L! You’re hilarious- certainly made a good new compost pile. Straw by itself is very unstable material! If’n ‘yall will allow me a little indulgence here…

    In your moist climate, and keeping with the organic and natural theme, most people make a viscous mix of horse manure and water and soil stripped of organics (fresh clay silt and sand) that when applied to the bale walls will weatherize AND provide structure. This ‘manure mortar’ will last for many years, is easy to patch, and will take on the color of whatever clay and sand you use (good colors come from pure quartz sand, or a yellow ochre clay… in addition to a little hue de poop). Keep the whole thing off the ground with a gravel bed. And if you wrap the bales with chicken wire and sew it tight to the bales with a long metal needle and twine prior to manure-ing, you can cleverly sew in door frames and windows and roof support and/or skids….. finish with linseed oil on the outside! From experience with straw bale building- no one should use them for a root cellar without extreme consideration for ventilation! Humidty+straw bale = rot = destroyed food + hazard. Only one bale cellar is in good shape that I’ve seen. There, they placed a water barrier between the bales and an inch-thick cement coating on the buried surface, and backfilled with fine gravel over a drainpipe to prevent moisture buildup. They also added ventilation and earthen plaster to the inside.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *