This is David & Susan Sifford's journal of what we pray is our sojourn of life (Hebrews 11:8-10) along the narrow way (Matt 7:14), even the old paths (Jeremiah 6:16), submitting to the Bible as a light unto both (Psalms 119:105). It is our prayer that these documented moments in our earthly time benefit whom God might choose to edify, but ultimately that God glorifies Himself through them.

Category: root cellar

Root Cellar/Storm Shelter – Update IV & Community Work Day

Root Cellar/Storm Shelter West Footer

After the guys helped us get the north footer of the root cellar/storm shelter poured, after some heavy rains earlier this year, we were still getting some water in the root cellar. I had previously added flashing on the west side to temporarily help the water slide away from the structure, but after having to remove it at one point and put it back, undoing the caulking, we had rain still leaking in. And so, it was time to get the west footer poured.

This past Wednesday was our community work day for the month, and so the guys gathered at our place to help do the concrete pour.

Before work day, I had dug out the area about 3-4 inches down and a trench on the outside end about 8 inches down. Then, I added anchor bolts to try to tie the new concrete to old, and re-mesh for concrete strength:

Dug Out West Footer with Remesh

Here are the anchor bolts into the north footer:

Anchor Bolts to North Footer

And a closeup of one into the root cellar structure:

Anchor Bolt to Root Cellar/Storm Shelter

And then it was time for the pour! Here are the guys mixing the concrete by hand:

Mixing Concrete by Hand
More Mixing Concrete by Hand

And then they would pour it into the trench, and I shaped it. And here are the results! It took about 2 1/2 hours and 34 bags of 80-pound Quikrete, with a couple of level-off shovels full of dirt into the mix (to help the concrete go farther, since what we were doing was not really load-bearing). After we were done, I spent the afternoon keeping it sprayed down with water to help slow the drying; and the rest of the men were able to go to Mr. Bunker’s for the remainder of the day to help him with other projects:

West Footer Complete
Straight View of West Footer Complete
North View of West Footer Complete

Thanks so much to the guys for the help getting this done! The Lord was merciful in holding off some rain too that had been forecast potentially for Tuesday, and although we never want to have rain withheld, we are thankful it was stayed after the footer was dug out and completed.

Thanks to the Lord for granting the resources and help to be able to do this, the safety during the work, and thanks to the gentlemen for their willingness to serve!

— David

Sewing Clothes for Sue

This lifestyle is really hard on clothes and we have several ladies in the community who are very good seamstresses…..but I’m not one of them 🙂 I can mend and do very basic stuff but have not yet learned to sew. A couple of the ladies, as well as my wonderful mother-in-law, have sewn for me several beautifully made dresses, for which I am very grateful. But Dave and I agreed that since we were having community work day at our place this month, it was a good opportunity to have the ladies help me by making a few new work aprons and head covers.

I also am experimenting with simple curtain ideas. Here is one of the young ladies helping with sewing one of them.

Sewing On Community Work Day

One of the great things about sewing our own plain/simple/modest clothes is that you can make these work aprons very economically with quality sheets bought at the thrift store. Here is one of the women making one of the aprons:

More Sewing On Community Work Day

I have learned over the years that pockets are so helpful and handy but most of my work aprons didn’t have them. So I’m thrilled to have pockets being sewn into these new aprons!

Even More Sewing On Community Work Day

One of the ladies had given me a sewing machine several years ago and I have used it many times but in the process of transitioning into the house it has stayed in storage for a long time. Another one of the ladies painstakingly cleaned and oiled it up yesterday and she did a great job.

At the end of the day these wonderful ladies had made me four aprons, a head covering and helped me sew a set of curtains! Here are three of the four aprons and a head covering.

New Canning Aprons and Capp

I am so blessed to be part of a church community with these ladies and am very thankful for their help yesterday. I am very excited to have these new aprons!! Now I can burn a couple of the ones I have been wearing wayyyyyy too long. :))

Susan

Root Cellar/Storm Shelter – Update III & Community Work Day

In our previous root cellar/storm shelter episode, we added a concrete footer slab all the way around the east side. This worked pretty well, keeping the majority of water out. However, with rain usually coming in from north and west, and there still being some leaking, we needed to do the north side as well (the west side currently has flashing attached to the root cellar wall acting as a footer).

I requested this past Wednesday, our monthly community work day, for the fellows to help with pouring the concrete. In preparation, I dug out the footer, which was 1 foot out, 4 inches deep, and then another 4-6 inches out, 8 inches deep as a trench. I had to start around the previous east footer because I had dug out that trench all the way to the root cellar wall, which wasn’t correct, since water in the trench could just flow up to the root cellar wall and then down it, which defeated the purpose of the trench.

Foreman William apparently had to approve:

Dug Out Root Cellar North Footer
Concrete Anchor Bolt

I put in some concrete anchor bolts to try to help join the new concrete with the old, spaced about 2 feet apart:

Other Side of Dug Out Root Cellar North Footer

And added re-mesh, tying it to the anchor bolts and elevating it off the ground with rocks:

Re-mesh in Dug Out Footer

Then it was time for work day and the pour:

Mixing Concrete by Hand
First Part of Footer Poured
More Mixing Concrete by Hand
Re-mesh in Dug Out Footer

We mixed in some dirt into the concrete to try to help it go a little farther:

Getting Dirt to Mix in Concrete

And here it is all done! It was about 25 feet long, and the guys banged it out in about two hours, 32 bags of 80 pound Quickrete. It seems to be holding ok at this time — I had to spray it down with water all afternoon because even in the shade, it was drying too fast and starting to show cracks:

North Footer Complete
Other Side of Complete North Footer

Since we finished the whole footer in the morning, the guys came back after lunch break and helped with painting a few items around the homestead:

Painting House Facia
Painting House Facia
Painting House Facia
Painting Cistern Siding & Summer Kitchen Facia

The ladies did some painting in the morning, along with some preparation on preserving our garden pumpkins, and in the afternoon, Sue continued to work on the pumpkins for final processing, and the ladies worked on sewing:

Ladies Processing Pumpkin & Sewing
More of Ladies Processing Pumpkin & Sewing

And then at the end of community work day, we had our customary taco meal together!

Community Work Day Meal

Here are the pumpkins cut up, and the meat and juice preserved:

Pumpkins Cut Up
More Pumpkins Cut Up
Still More Pumpkins Cut Up
Pumpkin Juice
Canned Pumpkins

And the seeds drying on the solar food dehydrator:

Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds on Solar Food Dehydrator

Thanks again to everyone here for their help on work day! And we are thankful to the Lord for allowing us to be able to work together — we pray He glorifies Himself through these things. And we are thankful to Him for continued progress on the homestead.

— David

Root Cellar/Storm Shelter – Update II

Over time, we’ve learned some things about an underground concrete structure, especially when they’re in an area through where water flows or floods: if the walls are basically straight down, the water will end up rolling down between the wall and the dirt, and can end up flooding the underground structure. And for us, this has happened quite often with our root cellar/storm shelter, especially around the main entrance side. We’ve tried burying plastic to try to get the water to drain away, but it’s never really worked.

Recently, we had at least 6 inches of rain for a 2-day period or so, and that whole area flooded, and we ended up with at least a couple of inches of water down in the root cellar — some 125 gallons worth, which Sue and I shop-vac’ed out, about 5 gallons at a time (since the full shop vac was heavy, I had to do the vacuuming and bucket filling, and so Sue uncomplainingly did the hauling up and out).

Well, that was about the last straw for me; and so I figured I really needed to do something as soon as possible, so more erosion that had happened below the stairs wouldn’t occur, to hopefully prevent any more erosion from behind the concrete walls from happening, and so the wood walls inside the root cellar wouldn’t rot. The plan was to dig away from the east wall, all the way around the entrance, to where we could pour a 4-inch slab or so, 2 feet out (3 in front of the entrance because that seemed to be one of the worst spots), dug out at least flat or inclined away if possible, and then have a 6-inch or so wide trench outside that around 10-12 inches down, so hopefully the water would have to crawl below and up the concrete in the trench, and then crawl under the slab before getting to the root cellar walls.

I began this project, starting to do the digging:

First Part of Root Cellar/Storm Shelter Footer Dug Out
Another Angle of First Part of Root Cellar/Storm Shelter Footer Dug Out

Once I dug out to a place past where I thought the first 20 bags of concrete might fill, I installed concrete anchor bolts to try to help keep the concrete against the root cellar concrete:

Concrete Anchors Installed
More Concrete Anchors Installed

And then I placed and elevated metal mesh, tying it to the anchor bolts:

Concrete Mesh Installed
Another Angle of Concrete Mesh Installed
Concrete Mesh Tied to Anchor Bolts
More Concrete Mesh Installed

And then it was time to pour the concrete. Since this footer isn’t really structural, I tried to mix in with each bag half a 5-gallon bucket full of the dirt I had dug out, to try to extend the range of ground each bag covered. I found putting the dirt in first and adding water before putting in any concrete helped soften the dirt and made for breaking up the clods much easier. And this is how far 20 80 lb bags of Quikrete, with dirt mixed in, went. It took me about 5 to 5 1/2 hours or so:

First Section of Root Cellar/Storm Shelter Footer Concrete Poured
Another Angle of First Section of Footer Poured

After showing the rubber ducky, which was meant for the root cellar, that hopefully it wouldn’t get its opportunity now, we were able to find it a new home 🙂 :

Root Cellar Rubber Ducky in Geese Pond

Once the concrete started setting, I used a 2-liter bottle with a hole punched in the top as a squirt bottle to spray water on the concrete to try keep it wet on top while it dried:

2 Liter Water Squirt Bottle

Well, a few days later, I mentioned in conversation this project I was working on. Community work day was coming up, which was to be at the Bunkers’ place; but Mr. Bunker graciously offered to move work day to our place so we could get help finishing the footer. Well, this was a very nice offer, and it sure would help to have that assistance, so I accepted.

And on work day, the work commenced…

Here is retrieving dirt from the dug-out pile to be mixed into the concrete:

Retrieving Dirt to Mix into the Concrete

And dumping in the concrete into the dug-out footer:

Dumping Mixed Concrete into Footer

And the guys mixing more concrete:

Mixing More Concrete

And here is how far we got before lunch break:

Footer Completed by Lunch Break

With as far as we progressed, I thought perhaps we might actually be able to finish the whole thing in the afternoon, so I dug out the rest and installed the anchor bolts and mesh. The guys came back, got on it, and we finished the whole thing — 53 bags that day, 73 in total!

Root Cellar/Storm Shelter Footer Concrete Pour Complete
Another Angle of Finished Concrete Footer
And Another Angle of Finished Concrete Footer

The rest of the time, the concrete crew got to cool down and relax — it was I believe in the low 100 degrees F that day. We also kept spraying the concrete to keep it from drying too fast:

The Root Cellar/Storm Shelter West Footer Concrete Crew

And as always on work days, we finished the day together with a fellowship meal:

The Community at the Work Day Fellowship Meal

We’ve had some rains since then, and it appears to be working so far. Hopefully it will work long term as well.

Sue & I are very grateful and appreciative for the help from the folks here we received working on the root cellar/storm shelter concrete footer, and for Mr. Bunker sacrificing a work day at his place to help with ours. And we thank the Lord for the resources to do this, and for the fellowship here He’s granted us, and for the service of His people to each other. We pray He grant us growth in the graces of servanthood.

— David

Thrilla in the Cella’

It was a dark and, well, dry night because of the drought……..

It was a night like any other — I had to go down into the root cellar to grab a few things for the evening’s supper. I always wear my head lamp to see better in there and to keep my hands free…that’s what I do.

But something was different this time as I pulled open the large, heavy door…

Root Cellar Large Door Entrance

…descended the steps into the hard, cracked earth…

Root Cellar Steps

…and opened the non-creaky door into the pitch black room….

Root Cellar Small Door Entrance

The last time I had left the root cellar all of the jars and cans were neatly stacked and in order. It was nothing special — it’s just the way I left them.

But this time……..this time I warily stepped over the door threshold and gasped as my eyes met with jars toppled carelessly on top of each other:

Root Cellar Jars and Cans

And cans that had been ruthlessly knocked to the ground……

Root Cellar Cans on Ground

Now, having grown up in California, I would normally have said, “Oh, that must have been about a 5.2 on the Richter scale” and thought nothing of it. However, where we live in Texas has virtually no seismic activity, and even with the sonic booms we get around here that shake the ground beneath us, I skillfully deduced that some “one” — or some “thing”!! — must have caused this. Who or what could it be??????

AHA!!! A clue! It must be someone who left a long, skinny purse or boot behind! I was now hot on the trail to find the perpetrator and was impressed at my amazing talent for discerning clues:

Shed Snake Skin

Upon looking around for more clues, I noticed a strange-looking fellow on top of the cans of corn appearing very comfortable and using them as a bed. Maybe he had seen something along his travels through the root cellar and had the information to help me break this case wide open! I asked him if he knew what might be causing all of the ruckus upon which I had just stumbled. I couldn’t believe the bloke’s rudeness I encountered. He didn’t even turn his head to look at me, nor did he even acknowledge my existence!

Root Cellar Snake on Cans

I stepped closer and asked him again. Nothing! He just stuck his tongue out at me — how rude! His silence taunted me — perhaps he had the information I sought, and I was this close to finding out from him who the culprit was, but apparently I would receive no help from the likes of him. I looked carefully around the room for any other clues, however insignificant, that might help me solve this agrarian mystery, but to no avail:

Root Cellar Snake on Cans Close-up

With nothing else to go on, I left the root cellar that night, mystified as to what might have happened; and the questions remain to this day. I still wonder if the fellow I met down there knew something. Oh, well, I guess I will never know what caused the…….

thrilla in the cella’……!!!!

Susan

Root Cellar Update

After having the wood for them down in the root cellar for several months now, I was finally at a point to be able to begin to build shelves. When the main root cellar structure was being completed, Michael suggested we leave the concrete forms, made out of wood, in place so that shelving and the like could more easily be attached. Needless to say, it was a good idea, because trying to put shelving up on concrete walls would have been quite difficult; and in consideration that there doesn’t seem to be an excess of moisture in our root cellar, installing wood shelves seemed a fine option.

This is how I proceeded. I measured the heights of pint and quart jars and plastic storage buckets and decided to make the distance between shelves 18 inches (from bottom of the upper shelf to top of the lower shelf), to allow jars or cans to be stacked; and I decided to make the shelves 16 inches from the wall to allow for a 4 quart jar or 1 plastic bucket depth on each, and also so that I could cut a 4×8 board into 3 even sections for the tops of the shelves. From there in the actual construction, I attached shelf “arms” to one side to the wall studs (when logistically feasible, making sure each arm was level from the previous one), mounted the front 2×4, and then included four or five 45-degree angle 2x4s on the other sides of the studs for added strength.

After that, I worked on the shelf tops, which I had chosen to be made from OSB. This part ended up more like a puzzle (which for me was sort of fun! 🙂 ), in that, I had to sketch out the cuts of each board so they would fit around the wall studs; I would also have to cut the ends off in angles so that they would fit properly one against the other, being that things were not square. In drawing the stud cut lines, I used a 4′ level placed against each stud’s side to get the proper angle off of the stud. The front and back shelves were a bit more complicated because I couldn’t fit the board piece into final position: I had to draw in the cut lines based upon a left to right offset, so that, after the original lines were drawn, they would have to be “moved” over by that much offset. And then finally once the tops of the shelves were in place, I decided to shave off any OSB overhang of the sides of the shelves, so that, if I ever decided to add a front barrier piece of wood to keep things from sliding off, it would lay flush.

Here’s a picture of the general idea:

And so, here are the shelves. I was able to move much of our canned provisions into the root cellar too:




Interestingly, given the amount of time it has taken to get to this point, this actually completes the originally planned work on the root cellar. Yea!

Once again, we are grateful to the Lord for His provisions of food and for being able to hopefully store that food long-term.

— David

Summer Kitchen

The original plan for the root cellar was to have a concrete slab on top, which would allow for the constructing of a building on top of it, thus creating a rather large insulation space to help keep the root cellar cool (plain air space is apparently a good insulator). We decided (at least at this point) to make this building a summer kitchen, allowing Sue and any of the women in the community who might want to use it, to cook and can the Lord’s provisions in a hopefully ventilated and cooler environment and to not heat up their own houses. And so, the design was to have the north half be the kitchen; the south west quarter be a pantry for the kitchen; and because I would like to have a place to take up the piano again, I thought I’d make the south east corner a piano room.

This is personally my first real building project. While this is still a work in progress, here is a little tour of where it is today and the process by which we got there.

Building the walls:



Time for a “barn” raising. The Lord has granted us the fellowship of like-minded brethren (see here, here, and here) to help and show their love for other brethren:





A quick point of note: when securing a wall to its perpendicular wall at a corner, and in anticipation of internal walls, you not only have the corner stud, but you need another stud to be placed stud width plus 3/4″. This will allow for the tacking up of internal walls. I did that for the corners of the building; however, I forgot about the middle dividing wall. And so, Lord willing if I do put internal walls in, I will need to add a 2×4 wall stud to support the internal walls:

Here is a backside view with the first wall braced:

And more “barn” raising:






“I think the meaning of life is that way.”
“Yes, I see it!”
“I think the meaning of life is over here, and I’m now contemplating it.”
“Yes, I see it!”
“Isn’t it meal time?”

Welcome to the frame of our summer kitchen building:

To secure the building down, we anchored it with heavy-duty 4-5″ concrete bolts:

Here is the structure with the roof put on. We used 24′ long, 2×8 rafters for the roof, and then covered it with Solar Board to help with insulation. Notice here above each window frame now has a “header.” This was suggested to me by our neighbor Logan, who has had more experience building. This is to keep the pressure from the rafters causing a sag in the window frames on the windows. Thanks to Logan:

The metal anchors are called “hurricane clips”, and they apparently help tremendously with high winds:

We covered the roof with tar paper and then began installing the corrugated roof metal:

I continued with Solar Board for the siding, and this is how far I have worked on it:


The Lord is gracious and merciful.

— David

Root Cellar/Storm Shelter

Part of our long term outlook is to be able to store food long term. Apparently, people did that for lots of years without freezers and refrigerators; and apparently, they did that in some way by storing food underground where the temperature, which can affect food adversely, is consistently cooler. Also, the weather here includes the possibility of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. And so, we began to pursue building a root cellar/storm shelter.

Once again, I thought it was probably best to rent the backhoe so as to be able to remove quickly the quantity of dirt a room-size hole in the ground would contain:

Here is the dig in relation to the barn, generally. I had hoped to have the entrance to the root cellar sheltered so that if we needed to go into the root cellar during a hail storm we would be protected by the barn’s North lean-to. However, the barn ended up needing to be constructed a little more away from the root cellar hole:

There comes a time though that the backhoe cannot reach all of corners and sides, and so the rest must be done by hand:

My idea initially was to build steel reinforced (rebar), concrete, cinder block walls. I was hoping to have a very long lasting, strongly built root cellar. Here, I laid out the foundation row in order to set forms to pour a concrete footer:

It appeared though the Lord had other plans. We were greatly blessed with an above-average rainfall last Spring. While that was great for the gardens, it wasn’t so great for our root cellar project:

The walls caved in and buried just about all of what we had done thus far. It was a little difficult to watch; but we tried, with God’s help, to maintain an attitude of trust in His will. And so the digging once again began.

By the time it was ready to go amidst all of the other projects on the land, it was around 6 months later. During that time, I had thought about the direction I was heading with the design of the root cellar; and decided that I would like to have something stronger, given the example of the caved-in dirt we had just experienced. At this point, I thought a concrete design would be best, and that we would build a slab for the cellar roof to allow for the construction of a building on top as the upper insulation for the root cellar. And so with that in mind, but again due to my lack in skills, I decided I might hire someone to pour it.

And so thus began once again the root cellar project.

They used steel beams for support and tin to support the roof:




In researching venting, I decided to put 4 inch PVP pipe in each corner, two high, two low, in opposite ends, to hopefully achieve convection if it got too hot in the root cellar:

Now comes the fun! Originally, the construction crew put X-braces between the walls in the root cellar to brace for the concrete, and 2 foot studs in the wall forms. And with that, the first concrete pour didn’t go so well. In fact, they had to stop part way through because the walls were coming apart. They stopped, regrouped, and re-did all of the bracing, making a grid of braces this time, and placing the studs of the wall form at 16 inches:

And they tried again:



And by God’s graces and mercies, they were successful!

All that was left were some steps to get down:


And a door:

Although this project took some 15 months to complete, we are thankful to the Lord for bringing us through the process He did, and we are grateful for the provision of the root cellar and storm shelter. May we all seek Jesus Christ and His righteousness alone as our only shelter from the storms of the wrath of God for our sin.

(Please see a root cellar/storm shelter update that discusses some other work we have done to help with water leaks.)

— David