How to: Build Your Own Root Cellar… with Pallets.

Posted on Apr 19, 2010 in DIY Projects, Urban Gardening, Farming & Homesteading

Source: Cordite Country

High on the list of survival items is of course, food and water. To find a ways to help us safely store our food all we need to do is look back to the American Indian and early Pioneers, who overcame the very problems we face today: how to store our food with lack of refrigeration.

The urgency these days is more focused on the amount required due to circumstances other than natural disaster. Since we live as we do (under the computer processed bottom line), happily on the trail of increased profits, the inventory of “ready-to-eat/ready to sell” food in the pipeline has been reduced to the barest minimum possible.

As a result, grocery stores no longer have a stockpile of goods in the “back room.” We notice that every few days the supermarket is stacked up and down the aisles with boxes of goods waiting to be stocked directly onto the shelves. Given this information, the fact that we must all face is that throughout the whole country there is less than a few days food supply readily available. If the truck does not roll on time, we are plumb out of luck!

This make shift pallet root cellar is obviously patterned after the old, rural storage system some of us still remember seeing way back when. The root cellar system allows for the storage of a great amount of food in a small space that is naturally regulated at a constant temperature of about 63 degrees year round. The only proviso is that the lid must be kept on at all times. Back in the old days it was a door.

All food stored in the root cellar should be of the dry variety, tightly sealed in dry containers. Rice, grains of all kinds, beans of all varieties, as well as packaged food items such as soups and similar items. The product of our food dehydrator is also stored down there. A typical meal example could be to select some beef stew base packets, boil some white beans, put in some dried carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes and with sourdough rolls enjoy a fine “backyard stew!”

Construction of the Pallet Root Cellar is very simple and can be made and put into use in a weekend.
Here’s how:
•   Collect six pallets from outside stores and garbage pick up points or the local furniture movers.
•   Measure your pallets (usually 4′x4′) and dig a hole several inches bigger all round than the pallets. Be sure to allow enough depth for the top pallet to be below ground by 6″ when it is put on.

  • Line the hole with a sheet of good thick plastic, the plastic should loosely drape in the hole.
    •   Place one pallet flat on the bottom for a “Floor.” Be careful not to tear the plastic liner.
  • Standing on the floor pallet in the hole, place the other pallets around the sides to make “Walls.”
  • You will find that the pallets do not support each other because they are all the same size.
  • Cut 2 pieces of 2′x4′ the same width as the floor pallet and attach it to the top of the end pallets or side pallets (it does not matter which) using bailing wire or thick string. Now the pallets will not cave in.
  • Secure the four corners of the pallets to each other with wire or string and you will have a sturdy box to work with.
  • Pull the plastic inside the box and, as you stand inside, pull loose dirt down around the sides of the box taking up the space between the outside walls of the box and the sides of the unit.
  • Pack the dirt down and “firm up” the box before you get out. Then, from topside, walk around the box tamping down the dirt with your feet. When finished pull the plastic back out of the box and roll it up.
  • Now you are ready to stock the box with food. You can use 30 gal plastic trash bins as containers and fill these first.
  • Once food is placed in the storage unit, the top pallet should be put on. Pull the rolled plastic over the top to keep the inside cool.
  • You may decide to put hinges on the “lid,” as well as make shelves or other improvements to this basic design.
  • As soon as the unit is full, cover the lid with a good 3″ of newspaper, pull the plastic liner back in place and cover with a good strong plastic tarp. Then put rocks, bricks, or soil over the tarp to keep it in place.
  • That’s it. You are now the proud owner of your own “Root cellar” full of food. If you are careful in packing the items, you should have many months of food down there.

This item is good for most natural disasters (except, obviously, floods).

Even if the house is flat, your food is still there waiting to be used. I am sure many of you have already envisioned many “Root cellars” all over the yard, some with food, some water, or clothes or?

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