On Sunday, November 21st, a group of strangers gathered together at the Ecology Action Centre at an unholy hour (okay, it was 10am) and then set out on a root cellar road trip! The tour would include three root cellars – first, an above ground root cellar in a barn on a farm; second, a dome-shaped underground root cellar in a suburban backyard; and finally, a closest-sized cold room turned root cellar in an urban home. Our convoy travelled along, enjoying the beautiful landscape and one another’s company, and daydreaming of shelves stocked with carrots, potatoes, apples and parnsips. We were a group of about twenty – gaining a few country folk along the way. There were children and grandparents, students and young professionals, farmers and even a reporter or two.
Let’s start at the beginning (seems like a good place to start). Our first stop was in Belmont. Here we saw an above ground root cellar built into a barn. The root cellar had a gravel pit in the centre of the floor and a very large fan attached to the ceiling. The root cellar owner, Alex, discussed the importance of humidity as well as ventalization.
We were also invited to nose around a bit as well, enjoying the incredible warmth of the greenhouse, visiting the noisy ducks and viewing the beautiful natural building walls of the house. The children were well-amused by the farm dog who seemed to love small, pink mittens!
All that talk about local carrots, potatoes and parnsips left many of us hungry. Luckily, our next stop was lunch! We piled back into our assigned carpool seats and set our sights on the JustUs! Cafe (and Museum) in Grand Pre where soup and sandwiches – and of course fair trade coffee – awaited us. Mmmmmmm………………. (I must have been distracted as I don’t have any photos of lunch.)
After sipping our coffee and slurping our soup, we were back on the road. Next stop: New Minas. Here, tucked away in a suburban backyard, was a magical dome-shaped underground root cellar – a root cellar worth drooling over! While the adults aborsbed the details of the making of this magnificant root cellar, the children climbed the mound and declared their plans to have a similar root cellar when they grew up. On this stop, a number of root cellar experts joined us to share their knowledge. Throughout the day, expert after expert insisted that experimenting was the best way to learn about root cellars – from burying a container of food in your backyard to building a community-size, underground root cellar. If you are interested in some well-tested tips from two experienced root cellar builders and users, check out Bonnie and Sylvan’s blog at http://thegreenlifefarm.wordpress.com. Our visit to this suburban root cellar also included a live musical preformance – inspiring songs for the underground movement!
Now it was time to head back towards the big city – but not without a quick stop at a farm market (I mean what is a trip to the Valley without a stop at a farm market?). With our trucks heavy with root vegetables, squash and delicious Valley apples, we made the trip to Bedford where we stopped in on our final root cellar – a family-sized cold room turned root cellar in the basement of a beautiful older home.
Sylvia, the welcoming owner and operator of this root cellar explained that the temperature is controlled by a vent. You can see the square vent in the upper corner of the above photo (in the ceiling). The vent can be opened or closed depending. Sylvia keeps a glass jar filled with water in the root cellar, knowing that if the water in the jar freezes it is time to adjust the temperature (via the vent). To prevent small creatures from using the vent as their own private entrance, Sylvia keeps the outer face of the vent covered with chicken wire – take a look:
With that, our root cellar tour came to a close. We said our goodbyes, thanked our gracious final host, and went on our seperate ways. Max, a reporter for the King’s College newspaper, the ” Halifax Commoner”, made the front page with his excellent account of the day. You can check it out at http://thecommoner.kingsjournalism.com/?p=4507.
Yours in food, Keltie