By Lynn H. Nelson

When I was a child, I spent a few years with my grandparents on a homestead claim in northern Saskatchewan, well beyond paved roads, electricity, and virtually everything else with which I have since become accustomed. The territory was just being opened up.  I suspect that few folks today have ever had much dealing with a real root cellar, but it was an essential part of any well-appointed home only a hundred years ago. The kitchen often started life as a lean-to outside the home, but home owners were anxious to make that lean-to a permanent part of their household, and acquire a good cast-iron stove that would feed the family, incubate the eggs, provide hot water from its water tank for washing clothing and bodies, heat the irons for ironing clothes, keep a soup hot for days on end, dry wet clothes in it drying chamber, make ashes for soap, and provide a nice bumper on which to stretch one's feet and ignore the blizzard outside. The cast-iron stove was a marvelously useful invention, and our ancestors spent most of their time in the kitchen, enjoying the amenities it provided. But before you can have amenities, you need to have a stove, and before you can have a stove, you need a kitchen. And how did one go about building a kitchen that would meet the needs of a large family for many years?

My father rolled up spare clothes and his toilet gear in a bedroll and walked the twelve miles to the nearest saw-mill. He had made arrangements to work for three weeks in exchange for a load of sawn lumber to be delivered to the little square log house that was all we had for a home. While he was gone, my grandfather and I tore down the old kitchen lean-to, mother and grandmother set up a campfire down by the spring, and we got ready for three picnics a day for the next month.

First my grandfather laid out a square where the kitchen would be, hitched up the team and plowed as deeply as he could. He then took the wheels off our wheel barrow and, using great ingenuity, turned it -- temporarily, because it was a useful tool -- into a small scoop that could be drawn by a single horse. I was a child at the time and could do little to help him in this line of work, and so I set up with Nick, my dog, and the red Radio Flyer wagon that was my only toy to walk the mile to a scarp where sheets of thick black slate jutted up in the middle of a vast green meadow. I had been entrusted with a wide chisel and a maul, and would gather and load into my wagon as many slate flagstones as I could haul. I would walk back and stack them beside the slowly deepening
hole in which my grandfather was working, and Nick and I would set off for another load. We got pretty good at our job and were soon able to make eight round trips a day. We might have been able to do more, but Nick kept discovering interesting things that simply had to be explored. One was a clutch of wild duck eggs that became the seed of my grandmother's flock of ducks, a group that grew steadily larger since she hatched them, they bonded to her, and she could not bear to kill any of them.

After a week, my grandfather that I had brought in enough slate, and Nick, I, and our Radio Flyer turned to the other direction, where a clay pit lay some two miles away. The clay was much lighter than the slate had been, and so my heap of clay grew quickly, even though Nick and I only managed four round trips each day. It was just as well, because, by that time, my grandfather had finished trimming the sides and floor of the eight-foot deep hole he had dug, and it was time for us to go and gather willow saplings and cut them into one-foot lengths. While I cut the saplings, each about as big as your thumb, grandfather set up a pulley and lowered the slate into the pit. For the first time in a long while, I was told to go play, but I managed to slip around by the pit
and hide myself in a tree. Grandfather was cutting the slate and laying it out as a floor for his pit, and I wouldn't have missed it for the
world. When engaged in such work, my grandfather's profanity was a wonder of the western world, and his performance when laying that floor
was without comparison. (Instructions for MODERN root cellar at END)

Father's three weeks would be up in only three days, so grandfather and
I worked from dawn to sunset finishing the pit. Hundreds of willow pegs
had to be driven into the earthen walls, each protruding exactly the
same distance since my grandfather was a perfectionist in such things.
Once that was done, the clay I had hauled in, mixed with sand that had
been spat up over many years by our spring, was wetted and lowered down
into the pit, and my grandfather and I troweled it over the walls of the
pit where it was held in place by the willow pegs. Then came the most
exciting, and most dangerous part of all. Grandfather hitched up the
team, and used the rake to drag in all the brush that had been left when
he had cleared grandmother's two acre garden. All of the brush went into
the pit until it was virtually full, and then grandfather set fire to it
while the rest of us threw buckets of water on the adjacent cabin. It
took an entire day for the interior of the pit to cool down enough so
that we could begin to sweep up the ashes and add them to the
soap-making heap. Some time before, grandfather had found a curious
piece of granite, absolutely flat on one side, probably having been
ground down being carried by a glacier during the Last Ice Age. He now
used that strange rock to smooth the sides of his pit, the clay had now
become a sort of rough pottery that took on a dull shine as grandfather
burnished it. He had scarcely finished before my father showed up,
looking tired and a bit thinner, but riding on the passenger side of a
wagon load of lumber from which the wind blew the most delicious smells
my way. Father got down, took a look into the pit and said to my
grandfather, "Well, Harry, ready for shelves?"

There was so much to be done and so much that was done, that I can
hardly remember anything but bits and pieces of the end of that summer.
My father and grandfather built their shelves, and they were shelves
that seemed built for the ages. Grandfather had no use for puny shelves,
and he had planned his root cellar so that his shelves provided the
supports for the floor of the kitchen that they built above. I could
write a book of bright memories of that kitchen, with its windows facing
down the slope to the lake on the southern boundary of our farm; its
great floor-to-ceiling cabinets with big doors for flour and sugar,
medium size for salt and cereals, small doors for tea and coffee, and
many, many tiny doors for cinnamon, nutmeg. cloves, rose-hips,
sassafras, and all manner of herbs, spices, and medicines; its
well-oiled and finely-honed floor; and its bright red back door. I
particularly remember the door. It was the final task to be done to
complete the job, and each of us -- Mother, Father, Bomp, and Donnie,
and I -- painted it with a quick-drying enamel. The next morning,
grandfather laid on a coat of clear varnish that made it gleam like
satin, and the work was done.

There was a chill in the air that morning; pig-sticking came to those
parts in late October, and it was well into that month already. Snow
could come at any time. One never knew it was coming until suddenly it
was there, and grandfather was out digging his way to the barn. My
mother and father had packed their things in their marvelous 1933
Chrysler Airflow, kissed me and told me to be good, and slowly drove off
down the track that would take them to Loon Lake, St. Walburg, North
Battleford, Moosejaw, Swift Current, and finally, after many, many
towns, and many, many miles, to Chicago. They were on their own, heading
to try to find work in a city still deep in the grips of the Depression,
but they had taken care of my grandparents and of me.

I didn't have much time to pine away about things. Grandfather said that
there was nothing more useless than teats on a boar except an empty root
cellar, and grandmother said Harry! not in front of the child.
Grandmother said that a lot, so I quickly learned that what grandfather
was not supposed to say in front of me was usually well worth committing
to memory. One of those things was a curious phrase that grandfather had
used about a neighbor who was continually offering advice to people with
far more experience than he.

Last Fall, I was on a committee meeting with our new Chancellor, who had
asked me how I would go about dealing with a certain problem. I had
gotten warmed up to the subject, realized that I was telling the
Chancellor how to do his job, stopped short and said -- what funny
tricks memory plays on us! -- "But I don't want to try to teach my
grandmother how to suck eggs." When the Chancellor said "What?" in a
somewhat strangled tone and the other participants in the meeting burst
out laughing, it occurred to me that the new Chancellor may never have
met my grandfather.

But that's neither here nor there. My grandmother had been preparing all
summer to stock her cellar, and we had been almost driven from the house
by bottles, jars, crocks, baskets, bags, boxes, and other containers
that seemed to be multiplying much faster than the pair of rabbits in
which I had set such hopes of profit that my grandfather had said that I
had dreams of being an hare to a fortune. All of these were to be taken
down to the root cellar and placed in their assigned positions. My
grandmother's stock was not the sort of home canning that one sees
practiced today, even by those with enough years to claim to do things
in the old-fashioned way. Many of the jars contained fruits, meats, and
sliced vegetables that she had spread out in the sun to dry, and then
had placed in open jars into which she had thrust one of those long pine
sticks that grandfather used to light his pipe. The end of the sticks
were burning and, when the flame went out, grandmother quickly capped
the jar or bottle and stowed her own vacuum-packed treasure away. We had
dried peas, tomatos, turnips and parsnips (yuck!), and various berries.
Sweet corn, cucumber, radishes, and a number of other things were
usually put up in heavy salt brine and had to be washed again and again
before they were fit to eat. But nothing was wasted, since the stock
accepted the salty water most gratefully. Then there were the
hard-boiled eggs and young onions packed in dark vinegar, the syrups
that had been slowly boiled down to a molasses-like consistency, the
strips of ripe apple and peach packed away in sugar that we would use in
our tea during the winter, giving it a flavor that is impossible to
describe but that made one think of springtime even though the snow was
so deep that the animals could not -- or would not -- leave the barn.

Grandfather had carefully saved the sawdust from building the kitchen,
and I had collected what for me was a huge pile of dried pine needles,
all of which was taken down and laid in a corner of the root cellar.
Rows upon rows and layers upon layers of potatoes and sweet potatoes
were carefully laid down on this soft bed, none touching another, and
tenderly tucked in there, beside the boxes of pop corn and dried sweet
corn that grandfather carefully stacked one on top of the other. We were
not so well-established that we could afford to kill our own stock, but
I had been bringing fish to grandfather's smoke house, and he had been
adding an occasional duck or prairie chicken. Well-smoked and, by now,
quite dry, grandfather painted them with a liberal coating of wild honey
and hung them in garlands from to hooks that he had put in the ceiling
of the root cellar. Here they joined the cheeses that grandmother had
made, dried and aged, and finally dipped in candle-wax. The tubs and
tins to hold the milk, cream and butter that Old Rose and Buttermilk
would continue to produce were put in place down in the root cellar,
where the dairy foods would stay cool but not freeze. Last, but not
least three large crocks were set in a row, and filled with alternate
layers of chopped cabbage and salt, and heavy wooden lids, each weighted
with a fine, heavy rock, were placed upon the contents.

My grandfather's root-cellar was filling up most satisfactorily, and we
would all go down every now and then with a kerosene lamp -- there was
no chink in his root-cellar through which light or anything else could
penetrate -- and view our progress. One thing had been left untouched, a
wooden container that was something between a tall tub and a short
barrel. I didn't know what it was for until one morning I awoke just as
dawn was breaking and saw through a chink in the logs by my cot that a
frost and light snow had turned the trees down toward the lake into a
silver forest like Marshall Field's put in their windows at Christmas
time. Grandfather was already awake and dressed. Sitting at the table by
lamplight, he had just finished cleaning the 30-caliber Springfield he
had picked up somewhere and had oiled the Colt .45 and Luger that lay on
the table. When he saw that I was awake, he said "Get up and get
dressed, Squirrel. You get to carry the Colt today. It's time for us to
lay in some meat."

It was just after dawn when Bomp and I set out, and the sun was so low
on the horizon that every little bump on the ground cast a long black
shadow against the white no, by now it was a rose-red snow. Everything
in every direction looked like some crazy-quilt pattern, and I didn't
know which way to turn. My grandfather knew where he was going, though,
so I just followed in his tracks along the road that led past the
in-field of our neighbor, Mr. Richardson. Mr. Richardson seemed to be
quite unable to plow a straight furrow an ability that tended to be
regarded as a reflection of the moral rectitude of the plowman -- and
his field was a hodgepodge of curving furrows, islands of unplowed
ground, furrows that lapped over each other, and all sorts of other
irregularities. In the low sunlight, it looked even worse. Normally,
anyone who plowed so badly would have would have enjoyed scant respect
in the district, but people treated Mr. Richardson, and the entire
Richardson family for that matter, with consideration and deference. I
couldn't fathom this until many years later, when my mother explained
why Mr. Richardson, along with his field that seemed to spell out
incompetence to me, was held in high and general esteem. It's an
interesting story that I may tell you about some day.

The road began to curve south as it passed Mr. Richardson's, heading for
the swamp, locally call a "muskeg," that lay at the west end of the
lake. Here it became the corduroy road that the households of the
district maintained, just as they maintained a similar causeway through
the muskeg at the northern end of the lake and so completed the circular
road that lay at the heart of Lawndale District. On the higher ground
just past the end of the corduroy was the house of Mr. Pankratz and his
family. Like most of the other homes in the district, Mr. Pankratz'
house was made of well-trimmed and tightly-fitted logs, but Mr. Pankratz
had carried the procedure further than others. Other homes had
steeply-pitched roofs made of overlapping and rough-cut pine boards
covered over with hand-split oak shakes to shed the weight of the heavy
snows of winter. Mr. Pankratz, however, had fashioned a flat roof of
logs, each of which he had locked to its neighbors with rough tongue and
groove joints he and his sons had cut out with an adze. His root cellar
was some distance from the house, further up the hill where the sod was
deep and dense. He had begun the digging of his cellar by cutting the
sod out in strips and had laid those strips on top of his log roof. His
wife and daughters had improved on the occasion by gathering the seeds
of the wild flowers that grew in the wide meadows of the nearby coulee
buttercups, dutchman's britches, daisies, brown-eyes susans, lady
slippers, tiger lilies, indian paint brush, violets,
jack-in-the-pulpits, and many others and had sown their roof thickly.
Throughout the Spring and Summer, people would ride or walk out of their
way just to be able to look at the Pankratz' roof, and provided that
there was not work to be done few escaped without staying for a cup of
tea. The Pankratz family was penniless so it wasn't _real_ tea of
course, but Mrs. Pankratz' concoction was made from dried roots,
blossoms, berries and other unknown things, given body by cream from
their single cow and sweetened with crystallized honey. My grandmother
wasted a good deal of time in trying to teach English to Christina
Pankratz, mainly or so said my grandfather because grandmother would
never be able to pry from her the secret of her wonderful tea if all
Mrs. Pankratz could speak was Russian.

But, although the road curved to the south, my grandfather turned north,
into the dense growth of ash and birch that we called "the brush" to
distinguish it from the tall pines, which we called "woods," that grew
in the lower ground along the lakes and swamps that formed a long chain
curving back and forth and extending far down to the south. I was hard
put to it to keep up with my grandfather's pace, even though he was
loaded with his rifle and ammunition, a block and tackle, and assorted
other accouterments. I had the Colt .45, which was big and heavy, a jug
of sweetened tea, and, in a leather bag inside of my shirt,
grandfather's special straight razor, but the underbrush was a good deal
higher for me than it was for him. I asked him, somewhat breathlessly,
where we were going, how far we had to go, how soon we would get there,
whether we were going to skirt the coulee, and a half-dozen other things
intended to suggest that I was tiring. Only to suggest, naturally, since
it was not something I could admit. After about the third question, he
said, in a flat sing-song voice (grandfather was quite tone-deaf),
"Isn't it funny how bears like honey?"

I didn't recognize that granfather was making a literary allusion until
several years later, but his words were enough for me to figure out what
we were about. I may have mentioned that grandfather had glazed the fish
and fowl from his smoke-house with a thick wild honey before hanging
them in his wonderful root-cellar. He had not collected the honey
himself. A couple of the braves from the nearby tribe had shown up,
handed him a couple of birch-bark bags from which one could smell the
honey fifty feet away. He had taken them into the house and returned
with a couple of long rolls of tobacco. I haven't seen anything like
those rolls of tobacco since childhood, so I suppose that they were one
of those things that have vanished with the years. At that particular
time and place, they were quite common. I was small so I am no good
judge of their size, but I remember them as being like a cigar the size
of my grandmother's rolling pin for pie crust and somewhat sticky to the
touch. The tobacco they contained was a protean mixture. Men would bite
off a mouthful and spent half a day chewing and spitting on the strength
of it. Others would cut off a number of thin slices, rub the slices to
shreds between their hands (sometimes adding a bit of mint or some other
aromatic plant), and stuff their pipes with the wreckage. Still others
would rub longer and more energetically, and roll a cigarette with the
results. And still others would sit or stand, talking, while they slowly
and methodically reduced the leaves to a gummy dust that they would put
between their upper gums and cheek, and continue on their way looking
just a bit like a chipmunk heading home. The most important use of the
tobacco rolls, though, seemed to be as a universal currency for everyone
except the tax-collector for the Crown.

I had been sufficiently well-schooled to recognize that there had more
to the matter of the honey and tobacco than first met the eye. The honey
must have come as a gift from Mr. Crooked Neck, the leader of the local
band of Cree, and Bomp would not have sent him tobacco. That would have
been impolite and improper. The proper procedure was for my grandfather
to wait until the next day, when Mr. Crooked Neck would come to the
house for a visit. He and Bomp would sit smoking their pipes for a long
time without saying much. Then Mr. Crooked Neck would get up to leave,
and grandfather would press a present upon him. Bomp generally knew what
he would find welcome as a gift since whoever had brought the gift from
Mr. Crooked Neck would mention in passing that their chief had enjoyed
something or another that my grandfather had presented him on some
earlier occasion. Grandfather was careful to explain that these
arrangements were simply ways of ensuring that his gifts would be
welcome. Mr. Crooked Neck was a warrior and, as such, did not know the
meaning of buying and selling.

Mr. Crooked Neck had attended some school in England and was, so my
grandfather said, the best educated man for many miles around. My
grandmother added that he was also probably the wisest, since he knew
that trade bred competitors but gifts cemented friendship.

Anyway, since Bomp had given gifts to the two braves who had brought the
honey, they must have given him a gift. Mr. Crooked Neck had taken my
grandfather into the tribe some time before, and so Bomp was always
getting presents and trying to figure out what sort of gift he should
give in return. Presents come in all shapes and sizes, and since
grandfather hadn't brought any trout, venison, berries, soft deerskin,
or anything else into the house, they must have given him information of
some sort.

Grandmother said that knowledge was often the most precious gift of all
and carried that principle into action by telling everyone's future from
their tea-leaves without accepting the piece of silver that was supposed
to be necessary for this sort of thing to work. It seemed to work anyway
since she had more tea-time visitors than anyone else in the district,
and she was showered with gifts of sheet music, pins, pies, cheeses,
embroideries, painted plates, napkin rings carved from oak burls, beaded
bags, and much else besides. I suppose our cabin would soon have been
filled with these gifts except that grandmother used them as presents
for engagements, weddings, births, birthdays, anniversaries, illnesses,
deaths. Every time she did this, though, reciprocation brought her new
gifts. The more grandmother received, the more she was able to give, and
the more she received in return. Grandfather used to say that if Hoover
had only followed grandmother's example, there would have been no
Depression at all.

But then Donnie was a very special woman. Everyone said so. And she gave
people special presents for which there was no suitable reciprocation.
These presents were small deerskin bags, tightly stitched, with a short
thong. The people to whom she gave such bags carried them in their
purses, wore them around their necks, or kept them in their pockets,
anything so that they had them always at hand. They were not really
talismans or anything, but were to be opened if ever the person got to
the point where he or she did not know what to do or where to turn.
Grandmother would take a small piece of sheet of parchment paper for
cooking, close her eyes for the longest time and, when she opened them,
write down something. She would then roll the paper very tightly, tie
the cylinder with some red corded thread, smear the edges with red
sealing wax, put the paper into the bag and sew it closed with tiny
stitches. Every now and then, someone would come to the house looking a
bit frightened and ask to see grandmother. They would go into the back
bedroom and talk in low voices so I never knew what they were talking
about. I suppose that it must have been about serious things because the
next day my grandmother would send me to the house of whoever it had
been to give him or her a new deerskin bag. I suppose that they had had
to open their old one for some reason or another.

But I seem to be drifting off the point. As I was saying, the men who
brought the honey must have given grandfather a gift of knowledge. When
grandfather said that about bears liking honey, I guessed what had
happened. They had told him where the honey-tree was and we were on our
way to kill a bear.


Here is a hypothetical situation that some of you may have thought about in the past. You are self-sufficient, either relying very little or not at all upon pre-packaged food. In point of fact, you grow your own. Living off the grid as you do, this makes your life easier. If you have ever wanted to cut the shackles of the grocery store and its processed, chemical and preservative-laden food, then you are in luck. There is a way you can do this, keeping your larder full and furthering your independence from local UTILITIES with their massive tabs, also various other municipal goods and services. Gardens are all well and good, but one avenue you might consider, if you have not done so already, is the root cellar. The root cellar provides a stable, year-round foundation from which you can store a wide variety of produce; The vegetables you find in a store or farmer's market can be stored in a root cellar. But first, the basics.

Building a Root Cellar

What kind of root cellar suits you best? There is neither just one way to build a root cellar, nor is there a required size. Both the orientation of the cellar and its size depend upon you --- your space and your needs. The very nature of the cellar lends itself to adaptation. In all permutations, one thing is constant however: the earth that surrounds it. When deciding on the size of your cellar, consider these factors: Is it for your use only or do you intend to sell some of it? Do you have a family? Are you looking to barter some of your produce? All of the above? A simple 5 foot x 8 foot cellar provides ample room for one person. An 8 x 8 offers enough room for the average off-the-grid family. Additionally a 10 x 10 offers more than enough room for anything that you might wish to store, whether for consumption or resale. As far as cellar placement is concerned, if you: Build your cellar into a hillside   Your cellar is less likely to get buried during the inclement weather of the winter months The chance for flooding is reduced during the rainy season The floor of your hill-bound cellar can be graded to allow any water that does get in to run out safely without endangering your crops.  The abundance of earth that surrounds your cellar in this scenario works to keep your produce cool and at a uniform  temperature, saving you from having to resort to other means to maintain the cellar's conditions  The main downside to this method is that it can be difficult to excavate: you have to dig out much of the hill's interior. This can be costly and physically demanding.
Conversely, you could: Build your cellar on flat ground.  The 'flat ground' cellar is easier to excavate than the hill-based cellar. You have far less to remove and far less work  to undertake to construct a viable cellar. It is typically cheaper to construct than the above mentioned cellar type  To avoid having your entrance buried in the winter, you can place a vertical door above a staircase leading inside. Last, but certainly by no means least, you can integrate your root cellar into your home's construction. If you have a basement, it would be fairly simple to add the cellar by way of an adjoining door. As with any cellar type, adequate reinforcement and insulation are important. If you do not have a basement but do have other outbuildings on your property, you can repurpose
them if they are otherwise unused.

Building and Flooring Materials

When it comes to the bits and pieces of your cellar, your choices are nearly endless but they are as important as the location of the cellar itself. Wood, cement, gravel, dirt --- all are good choices, all have their good and bad points as well. Three viable cellar construction materials are: wood, cement and as a dug out. Dug outs are the cheapest to build but potentially the most problematic if adequate insulation is overlooked. In the case of wood, whether for shelving or construction, you must be certain to use pressure treated lumber as this will help the wood stave off mold, rot and related deterioration. Cement is perhaps the most expensive, but also the least likely to fail or create problems later on down the line when it comes to adverse conditions in the cellar. In the case of flooring, you have a few options as well.

Dirt: Simple, cheap. Superb for humidity control, but messy
Gravel: In a highly dry or damp area, a few inches (three is best) of gravel works great for purposes of siphoning off excess moisture
Wood: When placing pressure-treated lumber, give it ample room to expand, as it will do in a humid cellar
Cement: Absolutely fantastic for a cellar with lower humidity
Mix and match: If your cellar crop is fairly diverse, where one crop requires things to be one way, and another crop requires something else, you would do well to consider having two rooms --- one with a dirt or gravel floor for crops requiring a humid environment, while the second room might have a cement floor for those crops requiring a dryer environment.

Using and Maintaining your Cellar

One inclusion that some growers overlook, but that is nevertheless of vital importance (even though older cellars may not have them), are the addition of vents. Many fruits and vegetables give off gas as they ripen. Without proper ventilation to draw away this gas and draw in fresh air, your delectable goodies will spoil. Here are some other tips that you can put to good use in order to keep your cellar operating at peak efficiency and to ensure that your prized crops reach their full potential.

Place a thermometer and humidity gauge in the cellar, preferably the kind with remote sensors so they can read from within the cellar, allowing you to see their readouts without opening the door needlessly. Snow makes a fantastic insulator. In the winter, leave it be as much as possible. It will keep your cellar from getting colder than it already is. Also during cold weather, if a freeze threatens, put a light bulb within to raise the ambient temperature just enough. One caveat: if you have potatoes, cover them up or the light will turn them green. Yuck! If you see signs of spoilage, get rid of the affected and offending party immediately. If you forget or let it remain, you can endanger your whole crop. In the spring or fall, alternate between opening and closing your cellar door and/or vents to adjust the temperature and humidity. Doing so at night maintains the optimum temperature, so long as you remember to close them in the morning before it warms up.

Living in a self-sufficient manner really is more attainable than you might think. Being able to forswear the grocery store's produce in favor of your own (superior) homegrown goods is a wonderful feeling. When you are savoring your favorite tubers, your most delectable greens, and your juiciest fruits as your friends complain of substandard fare in the produce section of their local market, you can rest comfortably knowing that you have made the right decision.

NOTE FOUND AT OFF THE GRID NEWS WEBSITE: "My dad grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania during the depression. For a lot of their fruit crops, like apples, they would dig a big hole and line it with tarps, fill it with apples, cover it with another tarp, then cover it over with lots of leaves. That proved to be enough protection from the elements for his large family to have apples (or whatever) all winter long and into the spring. Another idea is sinking large plastic garbage cans into the ground in a protected/shaded area. They will need to be the kind with well secured lids. Items in the lower half should stay fairly cool even as the weather warms. You will need to organize them in such a way that the items on the bottom don't get crushed."


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