EXCAVATING A ROOT CELLAR AT UNDERHILL HOUSE

Tuesday morning we woke up earlier than usual.

And that was a good thing.

I was very glad we were already awake (if not actually up and dressed) at 6:30 a.m. when our excavator, Bruce Lease, rolled past our bedroom window in his back hoe.

omevwwp3Top of the morning to you, Bruce!

I scurried into the bathroom with my gardening duds before he came back the other way with his first bucket full of sandstone from the back of the house where we are digging in for a root cellar.

Root cellar underway – bright and early.  Yay!

jrfgshcyThis is really huge.  We can’t address all the compacted soil around out house until the heavy equipment is done driving around to complete the root cellar, so full speed ahead, Mr. Excavator!

Underhill House gets its name from being built into our hill, but the reallio, truelio Underhill House will be the root cellar.

Behind us the ground rises sharply, but our hill is not very broad, and it’s backbone is right behind the house.  It falls off to the right and left like our own version of the Continental Divide.f3hjmdwy

By mounding up the ground on top of the root cellar just a little, we can guide the rainwater rolling down the hill at the house so that it will flow away to the south toward the pond or to the northwest toward the site of the future garden – leaving our basement dry.

Doug and Bruce plan to set the floor of the root cellar at about the same level as the house.   Then Bruce will sculpt the earth between the house and the hill into a gentle swale so any water that gets that close to the house will also head for the pond and not our lower level.4t1tofzv

As soon as he is free from other jobs, Mike Flynn who has poured all the concrete for Underhill House will pour us the walls and roof for the root cellar.

In the meantime, we have an amazing cross section view of what is going on beneath our feet on the hill behind us.

The soil is deep and rich from being covered with trees for since European settlers arrived and stopped the burning of the prairie that used to cover this part of the world.  Its steep angle has saved it from the farmer’s plow.l3v9t57r

What a treasure good soil is.

Everything depends on it!

We bought 21 yards of screened topsoil for the roof.  And we had another truck of regular top soil delivered this week to use when we can finally start repairing the poor, beaten-up land around the house.

What I can’t understand is – who is selling this topsoil to our suppliers?  It feels like selling your first born to sell the topsoil off your land.  It is irreplaceable.

Who actually strips and sells their top soil?

It’s impossible to fathom.

Have you ever bought or sold top soil?

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8 replies

  1. We’ve bought about 3 tons of top soil for our raised veggie gardens. With our heavy red clay soil you have to purchase topsoil if you wish to grow root veggies. Our top soil has been scraped from around old homes and gardens in the area. It needs a lot of compost added to replenish the nutrients it has lost over the years.

    • Hi Dan,
      Yes, raised beds seem like a great way to garden, especially over inhospitable soil.
      Don’t you love feeding your soil? I think replenishing soil is one of my all time feel-good activities.
      But I still don’t get why people sell their soil. When our house was built, our excavator meticulously collected the top soil and stockpiled it to the side for reuse and we still have needed more. I’m surprised it isn’t much more precious.

      • It does feel good to see pale lifeless soil turn into a dark rich environment in only a year or so. We raise chickens so we are rich in compost.

  2. Interesting to see how you do your root cellar. We are planning one too in front of our house as the land falls away quite steeply there. Just have to decide how to construct it and exactly where, so we don’t end up with conflict situations with drainpipes and such things.

    • Hi Joanna,
      There are so many ways to make a root cellar. We are using the techniques we have gotten familiar with building our barn and house, and working with the guys who did our concrete walls in the past because we are very happy with the work they did before. Because the hill is sandstone, we would have had a very hard time doing it without a big piece of digging equipment, but I know people who have dug out their own root cellars. They have my total respect.
      I’ll keep posting as the project progresses. Right now we are waiting for Mike to be free and the ground to be dry.

  3. From what I understand, developers sell off the topsoil from their developments, before the future homeowners actually buy and have a say in things. I’ve read so many times versions of “all we had to work with was solid clay because the topsoil was removed and sold. before our house was built.”

      • I agree, Denise. And it would seem to perpetuate a vicious cycle, where people whose topsoil was removed buy it from the most recent development, and around and around it goes!
        By the way, enjoying your blog very much. I recommended it to my friend who recently built across the road from my farm near Yellowstone Lake (where I don’t live, I live in Madison). She and her husband are doing wonderful things with restoring their prairie and woodland.

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