Saturday, February 20, 2010

Root Cellar Catastrophe

Well there I was, strutting about the yard in my shirtsleeves today just because I could... we finally had some sunshine!!! ... and then catastrophe!

Yesterday I noticed a fair amount of water running down the side of the driveway and across the walkway, and I assumed it was the melting snow since the yard slopes UP to the hill in back. Partially, it really is/was snow-melt. But this afternoon I went to the root cellar to fetch some potatoes and onions, and found the water flowing out over the threshold. Opening the door, I saw water about 10" deep inside, and the pump from the spring chugging merrily along...

Of course, the electric panel box for the pump is IN that room, which meant wading over to the panel and hoping there were no live wires in the water! I checked the main panel box inside our house, and there's no breaker for the root cellar; it is powered directly from the main outside the house. I wonder what dunce installed

The inspector must have missed that in the Home Inspection when my sister bought this house 4 years ago. At any rate, it needs a safety breaker at the pole, so I'll have to get an electrician out here. Meanwhile, I did get the power off to the pump.

Hopefully it will drain in the next day or two, before it freezes again and I have a mini ice rink in there. My boxes of winter vegetables stored on the floor are ruined; potatoes, onions, shallots and lots of garlic. I may be able to salvage some of the garlic to plant in April but I sure wouldn't eat any of it. I don't know what else I had stored on the floor; the bale of loose straw I had around some of the stuff on the floor obscures it in a soggy mess now.

Fortunately, the plumbing is exposed (behind all the cardboard food bins rather than inside the walls), and I should be able to fix the split pipe(s) myself. The pumped spring water is only used for the garden anyway, so repairs can wait for warm weather.

I really lament the loss of the food, though, and the resulting mess. My other BIG concern is my 2 Harsch Fermenting Crocks, which are sitting on the floor in the back. It looks like there is water in the moat on their rims, which means the water must have been pretty high earlier. (My crocks are the 2 gallon size, which now sell for around $120 each, plus shipping... and they aren't lightweight.)

The moral of the story is: Just because the pipes didn't freeze and burst over the last 3 winters doesn't mean they can't, or won't!

It reminds me of a funny story though. Years ago when I lived in Boone, I had a friend who was a potter that lived in a remote cabin with her boyfriend. One winter they closed the cabin, left the spring-fed sink tap halfway open so it wouldn't freeze, and went to upstate New York for 2+ months. Well, the sink tap did not freeze... but the sink drain did! When they returned, they found the floor about 6" thick with crystal-clear ice. She said the oriental rugs under the ice had a very surreal look...


  1. I'm so very sorry to hear about all your stored veggies gone to ruin!! Maybe a few wall-mounted shelves would be a good summer project, and I may have a few if you want them!

  2. Thanks! One of the things in the water was the bottom end of shelving boards I cut earlier but hadn't installed.

    There IS shelving in there already, but full because I have quart and half-gallon canning jars of dry goods stored on them. (Canned goods with liquid are stored in the house pantry.)

  3. Oooh! How heartbreaking to see your wonderful harvest flooded & destroyed. So sorry to hear about that.

    So the flooding was the result of a pipe burst in the cellar? Perhaps it would make sense to stock the cellar as though you were stocking a sailboat, ie, sealed watertight containers in the 'bilge' (on the floor/bottom) and the other items up on the shelves?


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