While we languish in winter, the non-planting and building projects emerge. We can finally see the workbench surfaces in the barn! We organized, swept out piles of mouse poop, threw junk away, and generally created a neatness. There was junk in there in boxes strewn about from way back three years ago when I was building the coop and fences. After all, who wants to clean up when you are too tired to walk? Its actually possible to walk around in there without fearing for your shins!
Now that the greenhouse is up and the raised beds in place, it was time to start getting the thing ready for the spring. The drip irrigation parts are here waiting to be assembled and I am using a small solar panel battery charger hooked up to a deep cycle battery to provide power out there. The big solar array has the ability to bring power to the building but it has yet to be wired up. Considering that the ground, depending on the day, is either hard frozen or a muddy mess, that will just have to wait.
This weekend I put up the shade cloth. After checking it out last fall after the greenhouse had been built, it became quite clear that something was going to have to be done to cool it down. I did some research about the best shade cloth to use for plants like tomatoes and the powers that be suggested that a 50% block was optimal. This material will block half of the sunlight and it claims that it will keep the temperature inside about 20 degrees cooler than the outside temps. If it works that will be perfect. If its 100 outside (which its sure to be this summer), then it should be around 80-ish. The fans will certainly help as well. This is important in a warming climate. For instance, tomatoes will stop producing pollen at temperatures sustained above 95 degrees F. They will drop their flowers and voila, no tomatoes.
The last assembly piece is to get the drip irrigation set up. The drippers themselves aren’t such a big deal; I’ve done it many times. The challenge this time is the actual source of water. Over by the big garden we have a ranch hydrant that provides water to the critters and to the drip system. Over by the greenhouse there is nothing but a house spigot. So what we are planning is a combination rain water harvesting tank with a pump, and use the house spigot that is supplied by the well to keep the tank topped off when there isn’t enough runoff from the roof. The tank we will be ordering is 1100 gallons and has a water pump plumbed to it. It has enough power to actually run an oscillating sprinkler so we my have to add a pressure regulator to the line. Drippers don’t care much for high pressure. If it works then T’s and ball joints can be added to redirect water to various areas around the greenhouse, including the apple trees we are hoping to plant.
The projects now are a lot less intimidating. There are three basic capital intensive projects we still want to do but we will be whittling away at those between now and some far off day in the future. To really bring the place off-grid I still want to have a solar – hot water heater installed (with all the sun here there is no reason not to use it). Also, in order to reduce the propane use, I would like to install a pellet stove (pellets instead of wood because in either case it needs to be brought in from off site. Wood needs to be split and stacked. Pellets come bagged and on skids) and what is referred to as a solar hot air condenser . If you have ever felt the water that comes out of a black hose that has been lying in the sun, that’s essentially how it works. Its a big black box aimed at the sun with a fan pushing air through it to heat it up and then bring it in the house. The last, which will simply be a work in progress, is to build a livestock barn. The livestock wouldn’t necessarily be for food. We are trying to heal the fields, and having goats or a couple of cows rotationally grazing around different paddocks, will aid in the re-fertilization of the ground and help restore the natural grasses. However, in blizzard conditions, and if we breed them, we need a place to get them out of the elements. But that’s a ways off.
All of the seeds for the spring planting have arrived from their various sources. We acquired a small refrigerator to keep them in as it aids in the longevity of their viability. Considering that we are also doing some of our own seed saving, this will help to keep them useable from year to year.
So the winter at the JAZ Farm has been a little lazier than the last few years – thank god. Now if we could get the children running Wall Street to get a grip and calm down maybe work would become more tolerable as well. We live in one weird world. I wonder what’s going to happen next. Its all one surreal adventure.
This was the temperature in the greenhouse yesterday. Today there is snow on the ground! You can see the texture of the shade cloth behind the thermometer.
Not a bad crop of Spinach for the middle of winter!
The shade cloth is up on the roof. YAY! No more climbing up ladders for awhile! I hate ladders! It was like trying to hang a 10 x 36 foot long curtain with a drill and self – tapping screws 12 feet off the ground with someone that gets nervous about unstable heights! I know. I’m a whimp. Hey, bite me. I did it. Anyone wanna see if they can keep up?