The sun is sitting high in the sky. Its rays reach down to warm your skin. A drop of sweat trickles slowly down your back, but you hardly notice. Your bare toes wiggle deeper into the warm soil as a refreshing fall breeze ruffles your hair. The breeze flows past and flutters the leaves of a nearby tree. A scarlet leaf breaks loose and flutters in the wind. It twirls and dances in dizzying circles until it lands gently in the grass.

Your eyes move from the tree to scan the scene before you. Numerous wooden baskets, lined neatly in a row, wait patiently for you to fill them with the fruits of your labor. Before your eyes is a crop of vegetables, plump, juicy, brightly colored and ready for picking. Your hand tightens around the garden rake with anticipation.

The first thing you touch is the onions. Their once hollowed green spikes are now bent over, dried and yellow. A gentle pass with the rake reveals firm, round onions, ready to be dried and stored for the winter. Ah, you can already taste the generous flavor they'll add to soups and hot dishes.

From there you move on to the rest of the garden. Red, juicy tomatoes. Hard, round pumpkins and green cucumbers are a feast for the eyes. It's harvest time!

But once you gather all those vegetables in baskets, you realize you have enough food in front of you to feed the twelve tribes of Israel! What are you going to do with all this food? You can give some of it away, and you can eat a bunch of it, but there will still be baskets and baskets left over. You certainly don't want to waste what God's given you—you want to be a good steward. Hmmm.

You could can and freeze the excess ... then an idea pops into your head. An idea so brilliant you can hardly believe you thought of it. What if you simply stored your vegetables just as they are? Then you could eat fresh vegetables throughout the winter. It's a genius plan! It's marvelous! It's fantastic!

But ... how do you do it?

Have no fear! Remember that the pioneers stored food all the time. They couldn't have survived without meticulous planning and careful preparations. When they harvested their gardens, they stored their food in root cellars.

A root cellar is simply a storage area. If it is kept dry, ventilated, and warm enough to prevent frost, vegetables can survive throughout the winter and sometimes into the spring. Root cellars can be built completely underground or partially underground in the sides of hills. Some folks have found interesting ways to build their root cellars above ground, as well as making small root cellars in their basements, garages, and even closets. Much of it depends on where they live and how low the temperature drops in the winter.

Even if you don't want to actually build a root cellar of your own, you can still learn some interesting things by planning and researching an imaginary root cellar.

MATH

  • When building a root cellar, there are many things to consider. First of all, where are you going to build it? Do you have a small hill you can build into? Could you make a hay bale fortress? What about using that extra space in your garage or porch?
  • You'll also need to estimate how big your root cellar will be. How many people are in your family? How many pounds of potatoes, barrels of apples, or crates of carrots will you need to take you through the winter? Make sure your cellar is big enough for all the vegetables you plan to store.
  • What about the temperature? Carrots, parsnips, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and celery like to be cool and very moist. Thirty-two to forty degrees Fahrenheit and 90-95% relative humidity will give these vegetables a perfect place to live during those winter months. Pumpkins, squash, and sweet potatoes like it much warmer and drier; about 50-60 degrees F and 60-70% relative humidity. How will you make your root cellar keep that constant temperature? Perhaps you'll want to build more than one.
  • Once you've decided on the place to build and how much food you want to store, you'll have to commence making the cellar. Draw a rough diagram of your cellar, inside and out. When considering the inside, you'll want to have an idea about the containers you'll be using. Are you going to use pails, wooden crates, baskets? How much space will each container use? How wide should you make your shelves? How much space will you need between each shelf?

ACTIVITIES