The Lost Art of Pantries and Root Cellars — 5 Comments

  1. i bought a cabin that used to be a small log cabin with a dirt basement dug by hand. The cabin was built on log beams and the dirt walls were simply framed with pallet like materials.There are no windows in the basement and someone added rooms on left side of cabin and added a back door with a landing and stairs going downstairs while still having flat cellar door outside. The original man was a moose butcher for the town and used basement as cellar in the 1930s. I think he added to the house and made it into a basement and put a woodstove then a electric furnace hanging from underneath with a grate through the floor. Its hard to keep basement fresh and i need ideas to frame walls in basement because the floor is like a concrete (mining shotcrete) . Any ideas. i could send you pictures.

  2. I love this. We are hoping to include a cool pantry in our off-grid retirement house in the high NM desert, on the north side off of the kitchen. I wonder if it would make sense to combine the techniques, to have a couple of bins buried into the floor of this partially below-grade pantry, which we could fill with damp sand for our root vegetables…

    Do you just keep your root vegetables in bins in your pantry? Do you store them in damp sand, or what?

    I also wonder about how you balance thermal mass and the pantry… we hope to build a tire bale house, with the most substantial tire insulation/mudded thermal mass walls at the back of the house, and a berm behind that. Would we want less thermal mass/insulation at the pantry?

    One design we considered would be to have a tire bale wall at the back but with a break in the wall for the pantry, with the roof supported by a header beam spanning the opening in the tire-bale wall. Then we would use double earthbag walls to enclose the back of the pantry so it is less insulated from the berm. Then maybe scoria earthbags at the front, separating the pantry from the kitchen, so it would be more insulated from the warmer kitchen?

    We’re thinking the pantry would be a couple steps down from the kitchen.

    I would love to hear your (or others’) advice, since you are so experienced and we are ignorant newbies who are just doing as much booklearnin’ as possible before digging in…

    • I see no reason why a buried bin within the pantry wouldn’t work out well. I have heard that keeping root vegetables buried in damp sand works very well, but I haven’t tried it myself. In the New Mexico desert the underground temperature hoovers around 60 degrees F., so that is the temperature you could expect much of the year in a mostly buried pantry; this would be true regardless of how much mass is in the pantry. I suggest that the pantry is well insulated from the rest of the house. This is a fine temperature for many things, but a little warm for other things; about the only passive thing you can do about that is to vent colder air in the space during the winter.

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