We are still enjoying “fresh” tomatoes & peppers from the garden in December!

In the kitchen there’s an old time vegetable cooler which was a useful commodity to homes in 1917 in the pre-fridge” era. The cooler was the “cooler” of its day.

It outwardly appears to be an ordinary kitchen cabinet but the shelves inside are made of wire mesh. At the bottom, there is a vent opening into the cellar and at the top, an opening to the attic. This allows a natural cooling air flow which is a very sensible arrangement that has all been forgotten by modern builders.

We use it to store veggies and fruits in. As a matter of fact, for a few years we had lived without a refrigerator (more because we had to for financial reasons). It was hard in that we had to go to the store almost every other day for things such as butter and cheese (which was not very easy on our side of town). But it was a very interesting learning experience – teaching us planning and frugality.

A few years ago we had to purchase a fridge for the edible flower/produce business so we bought an Energy Star model. It’s much bigger than what we need for our personal use – could definitely get by with a much smaller model, but at least it doesn’t use much energy.
Pot-in-Pot “refridge”: Here’s a nonelectric method of refrigeration that works with two clay potsand some wet sand. {Tipster: Sharon}

It’s finally soup weather! For the past few days we’ve been enjoying creamy winter squash soup made from our winter squash — of course.

Rain! There’s a 70% chance of rain today and we definitely need it.  With the backyard in the state it’s in (piles of dirt and broken concrete) we hope the rain won’t make it too sloppy and muddy so we can resume work on Sunday.

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  1. dermot says:

    The non-electric refrigeration system is amazing! Do you have any plans to build one?

  2. Anais says:

    Hi Dermot

    Hope your trip to SF went well?

    I really would like to try this method. I will have to try and track down some cheap clay pots (in my spare time).

    We could keep a few in the cellar. I think this “appropriate technology” will be vital in the future and something you can add to your survival kit (don’t you think?)

  3. Roger Gray says:

    For the record, an ice box was an ice box, i.e., an insulated container for ice. What you have described was a sort of kitchen-based root cellar; we had one in our house built in 1940, but our current 1903 house has none — it has an honest to goodness basement, an oddity in California, but a cool place to store food. (If there was another in the house it may have been lost in one of several remodels.)

    I mention this because my grandfather was an ice man in Pasadena as late as the 1920s; he would drive a truck loaded with blocks of ice to homes and carry the ice on his shoulder to to the back porch and put the ice in the ice box — sort of a wooden version of the styrofoam cooler.

    The ice box was, in fact, the precursor of the modern compressor driven refrigerator. In the very old days, ice was cut off of frozen lakes and stored under insulation in an ice house until needed. By the end of the 19th century refrigeration was available — but only on a large scale, such as an ice company or, believe it or not, on board 19th Centuray steam ships that made food runs between South America and Europe with beef.

    Once large scale mechanical production of ice was feasible home ice delivery really took off. We have a comedy club in Pasadena called The Ice House, because, well, it was one. They made ice there for home delivery to ice boxes. We also have a company in Pasadena that still makes ice, now delivered to grocery stores and gas stations, called the Union Ice Company.

    In any case, I still don’t know the proper name for that darn cabinet . . . but I do know an ice box is a little different (grin)

  4. Anais says:


    Thanks for your input. I agree “icebox” was an incorrect word to use to describe this “kitchen cooler.” I stand corrected.

  5. dermot says:

    Yes – the trip to SF was great. I did a lot of walking – 9 miles around Berkeley after the job interview. It would be a great place to live; having said that, I’m pretty happy where I am too, so I’m not too bothered either way.

    I can’t wait to see the clay refrigeration device – I wonder how much supervision it needs? It sounds like someone needs to keep the sand from drying out, which would be a constant chore (assuming it dries out quickly).

  6. Stacey Wilson says:

    I like this pot-in-pot idea. I heard something on the radio the other day – an older man remeniscing about his childhood here in New Zealand. Every house had a “meat safe” – a cupboard built onto the outside of the cold wall of the house, but accessible from the inside, with lots of air ventilation. You can still see where these were in some of the older houses – it’s usually been converted into a window.

    But the thing that caught my attention was him saying that they used to keep butter in wet terracotta pots in the meat-safe and that the latent heat of evaporation meant the butter stayed solid even in summer. These terracotta pots were glazed on the inside but porous on the outside. The two-pot, wet-sand version would slow evaporation I guess which would conserve water – but if you could only find one pot it could be still worth doing.

  7. Anais says:

    Hi Dermot and Stacey

    Thanks for your comments. Right now we have too many projects on the burner so I don’t when we’ll get around to something like this. But this is something we definitely need to have.

    People have lived without electric fridges for many centuries and we are going to have to re-learn these techniques.