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Mattis Point man builds a root cellar in his yard
How many times has it been said that a person wanted something ever since they were a kid?
It may have been a fancy car or a big house, a motorcycle or yacht, a dog even, but for one Mattis Point man the thing he’s wanted for so long is a bit unusual.
Cal Swyers has always wanted a root cellar.
“When I grew up, my grandfather had one and it was just something that was made out of old wood, wooden logs. And I can remember going up to the root cellar with him getting veggies in the wintertime," Swyers says.
“And it was amazing back then. I recall going up there with him, the little tricks that he had for opening up his doors.”
Over the years Swyers, who just turned 61, would say he was going to have one.
A couple of years ago, he decided to make it happen and set about researching how to do it.
“I watched more videos than God’s creation,” he said with a laugh while chatting from Alberta.
He wanted it to be a concrete structure, not something he’d have to continually repair, with a walk-in concept with no steps or ladders to climb.
With knowledge gained while working as a structural iron worker, he poured all the concrete and built a rock wall along the front, hauling all the rocks, about 20 trailer loads, by himself.
When he retired last year, he was able to put more time into the project. He had to take a break for a couple of months after he hurt his back, but got right back at it as soon as he recovered.
“Bit by bit it all worked out,” he said.
“When I saw it coming together I said, ‘Wow, I got what I wanted.’ It’s exactly what I thought it would be and worked out great.”
He finished putting the sod over the top of it before leaving for Alberta to visit his son and family.
When he gets back he’ll start putting in shelving and filling it — this year’s potatoes are already in his garage waiting.
“It’s good for anything, really. It’s a root cellar, it’s good for wine, eggs, bottled food.”
Swyers has been doing some farming and gardening for the last 10-15 years. He started out growing vegetables, and things have gotten bigger and bigger, as he now keeps some chickens.
It’s something he enjoys sharing with his grandchildren, to show them where their food comes from. He’s got five grandchildren in Torbay, two in Fort McMurray and two less than 10 minutes away in Stephenville Crossing. The two closest to him spend a lot of time with him and help with collecting eggs and harvesting vegetables.
He said his daughter will also use the root cellar to store some of the things her family grows.
Swyers said he gets a variety of reactions from people who have seen or heard about his root cellar.
“It’s a good conversation piece.”
His wife, Martina Swyers, calls it a bomb shelter.
“I was thinking, are you crazy,” she said, laughing at her reaction when Cal first started the root cellar.
“I thought he was going to build something into the bank, you know like something simple, but he went way, way beyond simple,” she said.
“It’s so beautiful now. It looks like a little hobbit house. It’s just so gorgeous now.
“He’s got a really good job done. … I’m so proud of what he’s done.”
Swyers is not finished yet. He has plans to put a seating area and a platform for a fire pit outside the root cellar.
He’s also planning a trip to Elliston, a small community on the Bonavista Peninsula known as the root cellar capital of the world
“I’m definitely going.”