Our first chicken coop was an old dog house. As our flock grew, we custom built a larger one. We used various parts from other construction projects, so it is insulated, has a wood floor and has electric lights. Without a coop, the foxes and racoons will annihilate the flock within a couple of weeks. We have two nesting boxes with removable lids for the chickens to lay eggs in. If we keep the nest boxes dark, the chickens are less likely to eat their eggs. We tried open feeders for a while but the sparrows were getting more of the food than the chickens. Now we use two custom designed feeders with tray lids that open when a chicken steps up. This has worked out well, although the sparrows still get some feed.
A root cellar was a valuable addition to our food storage capabilities, adding a cool damp option for those crops which prefer that climate. It is also very convenient to have good potatoes on hand all year round.
During the construction of our root cellar, using modern conveniences made the process much easier. As with other holes, the backhoe saves a tremendous amount of work, however when removing this quantity of dirt around here you are basically guaranteed of hitting a boulder, or three. So there is really only the one option.
Dad talked with a concrete prefab company who sold us a cracked septic tank 8' by 5' by 4' which they delivered. Actually the owner was very interested in our project, never having sold a root cellar before. He put a reinforced top on it for us for safety (or liability) reasons. Once situated in the hole, we sealed the two access lids with tar. Prior to back-filling the hole, Dad cut a door in the side and mounted it in a bracket which he welded up. To redirect runoff we built a berm uphill of the root cellar, so although there is one leak in the roof it never floods. We covered our root cellar with a several feet of dirt (except for a cut to the door), thus insulating it from all but the harshest cold. Two vent pipes completed the job.
Controlling humidity as well as temperature are critical factors in food storage. To provide ventilation we have a 6-inch pipe out the top at both ends of the cellar. While one enters the box at the ceiling and then ends, the other goes to the floor, so that fresh air will circulate - in at the floor and out at the ceiling. The crates and shelves inside allow air circulation around the vegetables. Since original construction we have run power to it for a light and outlet, which gives us greater control of the climate with a fan or heater. A little extra work was involved, however we now have a climate controlled (well ok, manually climate controlled) varmint-proof root cellar.
Over the years we have stored many different crops in a multitude of locations, from warm and dry to cool and damp. The difference between the climates changing how long the produce will keep. Far from being experts we are still learning, often by trial and error. Roots last longest for us in a cool damp location. We have also tried storing cabbage and apples in our root cellar with fair success, however the books say that apples will release gases which will spoil potatoes. Certainly even one bushel of apples in that confined space is enough to give it the sweetest smell of any place on our property. Whatever can be said, the fact is our apples last through the whole winter and we have just now (Sept.) cleaned out the remainder of our slightly wrinkled but solid potatoes in order
We've had the root cellar now for a number of years, but personally I don't know how we ever lived without it. Where did we put all that food? One thing is certain - the Lord's provision is abundant. He has taken care of us in the past, and He continues to do so. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
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