Yesterday morning I expressed to A. my concern that the whole cow we were picking up at the butcher later was not going to fit in our freezer. It's a big freezer--18 cubic feet, which is one of the bigger ones you can buy--but then again, it was a big cow. We were anticipating about 600 pounds of meat, plus A. had asked for all the fat and organs for trapping bait.
I was sure the fat and innards wouldn't fit. I wasn't sure if all the meat even would, as there were a couple of boxes of pork, chicken, and stock in the big freezer already and the small freezer above the refrigerator was full of zucchini, apples, collard greens, and yet more stock. I said I wished we had another freezer.
But was the Woodchuck Man concerned? Of course not! "You need another freezer?" he says. "I'll make you one."
A. thought for awhile, and then announced he had a solution. And that solution was creating a freezer in the underground mechanic's pit right outside our house.
A mechanic's pit is just what it sounds like: a pit constructed to allow a vehicle to be parked right over it so a person can get under the vehicle and work comfortably standing up, rather than sliding under the vehicle in a prone position. Mechanic's pits are not a standard house amenity, but then, our house isn't standard. It's a 1970s trailer with an owner-built addition. And that owner also wanted a mechanic's pit. So he built one.
The pit is constructed of stone. It's long and narrow, with steps leading down into it. It has a sheet-metal roof that can be moved on and off of it, too. So it's basically a mini-cellar with a removable roof. It is, in short, the perfect pre-modern freezer space.
Before we left to go get our beef, A. filled every available empty jug with water and put them in the chest freezer to freeze while we were gone. When he got back at 4 p.m., the jugs were frozen solid. Good thing, because it was almost 70 degrees outside and our frozen beef needed some help staying frozen.
We filled the chest freezer to the top with beef.
That's a lot of beef.
We still had probably a hundred pounds of meat that wouldn't fit in there. So we filled two of our coolers with meat and added jugs of frozen water in those.
And there was yet more meat, which we put in a large plastic planter thing we had, with two more jugs of solid ice on top of that.
A. placed those in the mechanic's pit, then arranged many buckets and plastic totes around them, which he filled with water. The idea is that those buckets and totes of water will freeze solid, thus continuing to cool the temperature of the pit even when the outside temperature gets above freezing.
It takes a special kind of woodchuck brain to envision this.
It didn't get cold enough to freeze those big containers last night--it only got to about 27 degrees--but we have some much more prolonged cold coming, with lows in the teens that should freeze all that water. In the meantime, A. wet a sheet and put that over the top of everything. The sheet froze, and the evaporative cooling as it dries out will help keep everything cold today. Even with a high of 54 degrees today, the meat in that exposed tub is still completely frozen.
A. put the sheet metal cover back on the pit for today, and will take all the covers off of everything tonight so the big containers of water can freeze solid. Then he'll cover it all over with some carpet padding we have, as well as cardboard, put the roof back on, and it should stay frozen for several weeks that way. By the time the pit isn't cool enough to keep it all frozen, we'll have eaten enough that there will be space in the chest freezer.
And that's how A. saved the beef. Because where there's a woodchuck, there's a way.