Saturday, April 19, 2008

root cellar progress - front wall

i worked on the root cellar today for the first time in recent memory. this project has been going on for almost three years. my back is sore.

my little truck was instrumental in making a serious leap forward. this root cellar is always the last thing that i get to work on in any given season. luckily i caught up on spring gardening earlier in the week--herbs, basil, cilantro, arugula, spinach, dill and tomatillos from sugar mtn.

the root cellar is made from earth bag construction. i got the poly bags as a mis-print cheap. the nice thing about this method is they breath proper humidity and don't require a poured foundation. i made the roof arch from ferocrete. it was really fun to do but very labor intensive.

today i made the door frame from pressure treated two by fours. i stitched the barbed wire through drilled holes. the barbed wire is laid between the bags and keys them together. this bonds the door jam to the bags nicely. i also drove re-bar across about mid way up as further structural integrity.

tomorrow i'll attach expanded metal lath to the door jam and wrap the walls. then i'll mix some stucco and cement and finish the front walls. at the end of the project i'll rock the face with this collection of rock that i have had laying around for almost two years. tomorrow should be another leap forward. a little more infill on the top and i'll be ready to cover the entire thing. the covering will be a water barrier (billboard tarp), a piece of old carpet and then the dirt. the dirt should mound clear up to the top of the pump house. i plan to put a living roof on the pump house. it will be dry/cool storage canning, cheese and stuff.

the solar hot water collectors will shade the pump house. so we'll grow violets on top of it and the root cellar. there will be violet jelly in my future.

once i'm done with the root cellar i can start the milking barn in earnest.


tansy said...

if you need violet plants, let me know and i'll hook you up!

it's looking great. has it been 3 years already?!

it's nice seeing things starting to take shape...i'm sure you can see it at your place to, the progress you've made and how much better things are now even though there's so much left to do...i feel like we're slowly starting to mold this place into a work of art, as you and tabitha are.

MamaHen said...

It's interesting to see how everybody's place is progressing (those of us who are building our homesteads) and how each does things. I had thought about using my pumphouse for cool storage also since it is partially earth sheltered but wasn't sure. Since you are doing it I will look into that further for myself. I'm going on my 3rd year of being here and I think this summer will see a big turning point in progress.

Danielle said...

Funny, we'll be 3 years in June, too. Sometimes it feels like we make progress by leaps and bounds, and other times it feels like we've just stagnated. Usually we've run out of money rather than energy.

Congrats on the root cellar! I still love the bottle wall.

Ron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moonwaves said...

This is one of my favourite of your projects - partially because root cellars aren't really known over here but I think they're a great idea. If I ever get around to having my own place I'll defintely want to plan one in.

Denise (for Peace!) said...

Hi! I'm interested in your root cellar. We live in Eugene, OR, where the soil is clay (expands and contracts in winter, demolishing below-ground foundations, we're told) and the water level is high, so we're interested in above-ground root cellar options. Did you invent this idea with the earth bags and ferrocement? Has it been engineered? I know the arch is the strongest architectrual form, but I'd be concerned about it's load carrying capacity. Would want it collapsing. Also, though most don't think of it, Oregon is earthquake country. We dont' get the little stuff, only the mega quakes, every couple hundred years--and we're due, "they" say. Nonetheless, I'd be happy with something I knew was structurally sound for plain old dirt and gravity. We had been thinking about concrete block, but regular concrete is so polluting.
My email is Any advice, comments or links to useful info or book references would be appreciated. I've been able to find just about zilch about how to construct an above-ground root cellar on the Net.
Many Thanks and congrats on your new, sustainable life style! **Denise**

Omelay said...


i combined the three concepts.
ferrocrete arch
cement block bond beam
earth bag construction. filled with crushed limestone 1/2" base

the 6"+ arch is very strong with fiber & steel reinforcing built up off from a cement block bond beam. the bond beam is adhered to the earth bags by re-bar driven through holes in the beam block down through the earth bags. expansion and contraction shouldn't affect this since it is ridiculously overbuilt.

i made my root cellar this way because i'm cheap and like to build stuff myself. if i lived where it froze heavily i'd include dense foam insulation around the entire perimeter surrounded by gravel. that would protect it from freezing and heaving. shallow frost protected foundation.. google about them they are amazing stuff successfully implemented in alaska. it might give you some ideas.

our soil is mostly clay also so moisture is our main concern. the 1/2" base limestone in the bags is the main heaving protection.

all of the three elements are proven and engineered the exact combination that i used is just an idea that i had because i could combine them with the least expenditure of money.

this is much stronger than any cement block cellar and breathes the earths moisture for proper cellar humidity.

good luck,

i'd be happy to answer any further questions.


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