Friday, 9 January 2009

cellar


Nowadays, we are rightly encouraged to make sure that our houses are insulated to conserve energy. New homes have high standards of thermal efficiency and in future, these standards will be higher still.

But, as we become more aware of our impact on our environment, we need to look more closely at what we want our homes to do. Do modern homes meet our environmental needs?

There has been a phenomenal interest in growing our own fruit and vegetables over the past few years. Not only does this provide us with healthy exercise, it provides us with high quality fresh food that has been grown on our doorstep. This is not a fad, but a change in lifestyle that will persist.

But home-produced food is awkward: it comes in gluts. It can’t be eaten at one sitting and so we need give thought to how we store surpluses. Our modern reaction is to freeze. So, our freezers become chock full of beans, broccoli, and blackberries. But freezing isn’t always the best option for storing. This year’s apple harvest was exceptional, but freezing all those apples is not practicable or appropriate. Carrots can be frozen, but storage in clamps or peat would work as well. To make the best of it, we must learn from our forebears.

This brings me back to my question about house design. Modern houses take little account of the need for food storage. In our first home, a 1930’s house, we had a cellar that had a constant temperature of 50 degrees F. It had a slab for cool meat storage and gave lots of opportunities for cool storage of fruit and vegetables. It was a fantastic conditioner of home brewed beer too!

Our modern home and garden doesn’t give us the same opportunities. Garages and sheds become too warm in summer and too cold in winter. Our small gardens don’t easily give us space for the root cellars that are common in North America. Our kitchens do not always have storage space for a years worth of preserves and conserves.

The answer is simple. Let’s return to designing homes that take account of our need to save food: our own superstore.

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