Friday, February 01, 2008

Warmth and Happiness and Light... least in a hypothetical sense.

The more involved I get in gardening - specifically food-oriented gardening - the more I yearn for a small greenhouse. Or at least some good cold frames. I even scouted out what kind of materials my dream greenhouse would be made from, drawn up plans, the whole nine. I wasn't planning anything too elaborate - maybe 4' x 10', but even so, I could never get it high enough on the priority list to allocate any funds. It wouldn't even take a ton of money to do what I want if I supply the labor myself, but other things have always taken precedence so far.

But sometimes, where there's a will, there's a way. So after a year or more of keeping my eyes and ears open, my evil plan is finally coming together. And practically for free.

I got a few dozen salvaged windows from a campus house that was being renovated, at no cost.

I got a pile (actually a few piles) of cinder blocks from some guy's barn when he wanted to clean it out. Also at no cost.

I got some food-grade plastic barrels - perfect planting bench height, cool-season thermal mass and warm-season irrigation - from a trucker up the road. Not free, but cheap. (Nothing says "rainwater cachement" like the scent of Apple Schnapps flavoring...)

I bought some pressure-treated 4x4 posts a while back in anticipation of this project. I had to pay for those. I've also got a bunch of scrap lumber leftover from various other projects here and there.

And I'm pretty sure I've managed to arranged for some free labor. Well, not precisely free, but bartered.

The plan is to build it off the south side of the pole barn, right about here:

(You like our high class chicken shelter on the left there?)

Now I just have to see if my hired (bartered?) hands and I can turn these pieces into something functional once the weather breaks. Of course, this is from somebody who has had an unfinished grape arbor of the simplest design standing unfinished off the back of the house for the better part of a year. But still...

Here are some ideas I'm kicking around. Feel free to laugh, point, and tell me how foolish I am...

My hope is that the rainbarrels can catch water off the roof, and store up some heat on sunny days in late winter and early spring. The idea is that if I put a little platform on top of the black-painted, water-filled barrels, the sun-heated water will provide a little overnight warmth for seed germination.

Of course, in reality, I'm almost certain the barrels will freeze, because it'll be cloudy every day and I'll have started too early. So maybe some cold-frames as backup. And maybe only one or two water-filled barrels as an experiment.

I'd like to include that window on the pole barn inside the attached greenhouse, so that I can use it as a vent to let warm, humid air into the barn on cool, sunny days.

I thought about bowing a cattle panel over the still-mostly theoretical greenhouse, to act as a trellis for some climbing annuals, so the glass would be shaded by high summer. I don't remember hearing of this being done, and there's probably a good reason for that, but I don't know what it is.

It's also been suggested to me that I put some hardware cloth or similar over the glass to protect from hail damage, since this is actual, real glass. That might make cleaning the glass difficult, depending on how it's done. I wonder if I can somehow combine the arbor idea with the hail protection idea. I don't remember the last time I saw any serious hail, but it'd only take once.

Hopefully I can find uh, well... a window of opportunity to make this happen. If nothing else, it'll give the chooks a place to hang out where there's daylight and not too much wind.

[Speaking of wind... I've probably mentioned that it's always windy here. Ridiculously windy sometimes. I often have to fetch trash can lids, and sometimes empty trash cans, from a quarter mile away. Our west-facing fence lines are like big trash nets. And when a nasty storm came through the other night, it took the neighbor's trampoline - one of those big deals with the netting around the outside - across their yard, over their fence, and into a crumpled mess a few hundred yards away in the other neighbor's back yard.]

Anyway, so that's my evil plot, more or less. I'll let you know if and when it happens...

Wish me luck.


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At 2/01/2008 11:21 PM, Blogger JBTW said...

Luck to you!
I hope your evil plan turns out wickedly wonderful.
HaHaHa (evil laugh of course)

At 2/03/2008 9:44 PM, Blogger Wendy said...

Very cool! I can't wait to see it all finished. To be honest, though, I'm a wee-bit jealous as a greenhouse was in our plans until our town planning board thought it would detract from our tiny property. Silly people.

At 2/06/2008 9:11 PM, Blogger JBTW said...

So how's the wife doing? I don't remember when she's due... is she ready to burst soon? ...I hope all is going well. Whatever came about with her relaxation stuff? (I'd ask her, but she's not blogging!)

At 2/07/2008 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said... experience with hail is that it doesn't break the glass. However branches, sticks and other things picked up by the strong winds associated with the hail storm can damage windows. Doesn't look like you have any trees close by! I wish I still had a green house. Good luck with yours. I found a product called 'shade cloth' thrown over the top prevented it from getting too hot.

At 2/08/2008 12:40 PM, Blogger katecontinued said...

I just wanted to drop by and let you know I enjoy reading your blog. In fact I tagged you for the Archive Meme at my own blog here. Sounds like you are a busy guy, but I'd love to read what you selected from your archive.

At 2/08/2008 11:57 PM, Blogger Chile said...

Love the chicken coop. LOL!

I nominated you for an Excellent Blog Award. If you have time to manage it along with Kate's meme. Details here.

At 2/11/2008 12:47 AM, Blogger e4 said...

Jess - all's well. See most recent post.

Wendy - I don't think I'll ask our zoning people. We're inconspicuous, and I like to live on the edge.

Sarah - Thanks for the input. I just know somebody who saw extensive hail damage to glass and crops. We don't get big hail very often, but who knows. I may end up lazy anyway.

Kate and Chile - Thank you both. More to come.

At 2/20/2008 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, just wandered over from Sharon's blog. On using the water barrels for late winter/early spring warming, I think you'll want to use more than one or two barrels. At least 3, 4 if you want to vent the extra heat into the barn. You can always take them out if it's too many.

I've only worked with small black buckets in an unheated porch (about 5' x 6'). Since you're building your space, you'll have more window space than I did... hm. My buckets needed a little extra help from time to time on really cold days, but I was using them to heat the space for the entire winter -- so I would bring one or two in during the day and sit them on the radiators to help them along -- yours will have the mass to not worry about losing as much heat. But even my little guys (5 gal) never froze, so at least on that front you shouldn't have too much worry. (I live in western MA, so it does get fairly cold here, though not as often/much as say where Greenpa lives!).

We're hoping to build a greenhouse too, once we have our new place. Good luck with the project!

Heather G


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