(construction and usage)
There were approximately six to eight root cellars on
the hillside in the village. Each major family structure
had a cellar. This meant one cellar might be used by three
or four families. Root cellars in Ninilchik were usually built
on the hillside. A hole was dug down in the ground about
8 feet deep and 8x8 or 10x10 feet in diameter.
They were cribbed (framed) and beamed across the top
with logs. The ceiling was then covered
with logs to form a roof or base
for the hatch. Logs not only prevented the cellar
from caving in but allowed something to be
nailed to the sides and ceiling.
Generally it was like building a cabin under the
surface of the hill. The floor was made of packed down
and leveled out soil. Shelves and bins were made of
logs or planks for storing vegetables. Over the top of the
ceiling an opening was framed and a trap door was
attached. A small log structure about three
feet square and three logs high was built around
the trap door. The outer structure had another
door. The roof was usually made like a
chalet extending about one foot out on all four sides
of the exposed logs and the trap door to prevent snow
and water from building up and seeping in.
Inside the structure, fresh hay was placed, over
the trap door and any ceiling logs that were
exposed to the open air, for insulation. During
the winter months, fresh snow
was banked over the building for further insulation.
. When something was needed a person
crawled into to the outer building, pushed the hay
aside and lifted the trap door. He climbed down the crude
stairs (boards with logs or planks across and almost
vertical to the walls). Occasionally root cellars
were built under a cabin
(belonging to families like the Kelly's or
Jackinsky's who had second homes or ranches away
from the village). There was a problem with
this construction. If the house was left
vacant and unheated the contents would
freeze, because there was no hay to insulate the
trap door and exposed logs. Sometimes frost
would form clear through the ceiling of these cellars.
Another important factor was drainage.
On the hillside the elements made for natural
drainage and water did not seep in. On flat ground
the spring thaw filled the cellar base with water.
The men carried items in buckets and gunnysacks
to and from the cellar for the ladies because it
was hard work going up and down the
hillside. In the summer the women cleaned the
cellar, removing the old hay and vegetables. The old
potatoes were used for planting. The women did all the
stocking of the Root cellar. Potatoes, carrots
(sometimes stored in bins of sand), and turnips
were placed in bins or on shelves. Cabbages were pulled
from the ground with the root and outer leaves
attached and tied with hayrope from the ceiling
by the root. (This caused many children to dislike the
bitter flavor the cabbage developed over the winter
when it was used in soups and stews). Sometimes
salted fish, mushrooms, and moose were placed in
barrels and stored in the cellar. Other items such as
salted chives, preserved berries as well as canned
goods and anything you didn't want to freeze
were placed in the cellars. In the fall the
trap was again covered with fresh hay. About
once every week or two the men or boys
boys would go to the cellar and bring back as
many supplies as the family could safely store
somewhat like you do at the market today.
George Jackinsky can still visualize the young lads
on cardboard or moose or bear hides or anything
else that was handy, sliding down the icy hill with a fifty
pound gunnysack full of potatoes.
This recollection is a joint recollection
of George Jackinsky and Bobbie Oskolkoff.
It is an example of how the different memories
can be joined together to collect more accurate data.
This page may change from time to
time as we remember more facts.
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You may have noticed the joint work we have accomplished
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