Tag Archives: greenhouse

Sputtering towards Spring

Organized workshop

In between the unusual arctic blasts that continue to pummel the area I’ve been quietly preparing for the inevitable coming thaw. We’re now back in another round of near record-low temperatures, but before that happened I got some much needed clean-up done as well as set up a really simple coldframe/mini-greenhouse for seed starting.

Ever since I brought my first load of stuff out to the property there’s essentially been an amorphous pile of stuff including everything from private affects and clothes to tools and materials all piled together with little rhyme or reason. It was under tarps strung between trees for the first 3 years, and then about a year ago it moved underneath the protection of the new shed.

Organized shed

Well, I finally went through ALL of the boxes of stuff and organized at least roughly. I can’t tell you how many things I found that I’d spent crazy amounts of time looking for.

The shed is a long way from done, and I’ll have to move some of the stuff again to work on the root cellar, but it’s so wonderful to easily find the tools and materials for projects and then know exactly where they go when I’m done. There’s an actual place for that kind of object now!  Also, I finally have space to pull in a vehicle to work on it when I need to.  Will wonders never cease!

Simple Coldframe

Hay and straw bale cold frame mini-greenhouseI made a rectangle from 8 old hay bales someone gave me and then stacked another 3 bales on the north wall of it.  Then I put down about 6″ of straw within a rectangle to insulate the floor and then draped a clear plastic drop cloth over a few 2×2 boards.  I secured the drop cloth with some of the scrap chunks of granite I have for various projects, mainly the footing around the straw bale buildings.

I also put a couple of the bigger dark pieces of granite inside of it, propped up against the back wall.  These chunks of granite are thermal mass that moderate the temperature, absorbing heat and keeping it from getting too hot during the day, and then re-radiating that heat back out at night.

Opened coldframe with onion trays

Today the outside temperature topped out at 26F, but inside the bale greenhouse it was 80F.  I’ve been bringing the seedlings inside at night since it’s been getting into the single digits and it gets below freezing inside the greenhouse, but soon it’ll protect against mild frosts and I can start getting tomato and pepper soil blocks started in there along with the onion trays I’ve already got growing.

Eventually there will be a greenhouse attached to the front of the common house and I won’t need to set a variation of this up every year.


Maya Creek Christmas 2009

After some soul-searching and continued annoyance with referrals to the morning after pill I’ve decided to change the name of the Ecovillage.  I’ve gone through a few different ideas and some conferring with Justin and Melainia I’ve settled on Maya Creek Ecovillage. Almost the entire watershed is on the property and it’s easily one of the most beautiful features of the land.  The road that will eventually go out to the ecovillage center will pass along several especially beautiful parts.  What a way to be greeted home!

Straw bale house with new truckIt’s snowing out here on the land today.  Big fat flakes dancing around in the gusty wind.   There was a little snow on the ground when I arrived but it melted quickly the first day.  I’ve only been out here for about 5 days.

It’s gotten colder since then, but I’m keeping warm. The propane heater is keeping the camper warm and I’ve also started using one of the kerosene lamps in the evenings, which also puts off a good amount of heat.  It makes it smell a little, but nothing like the kerosene heater did.

It’s not a large area to heat, but the camper has exactly no insulation.  That’s why I’m using a bunch of the rejected straw bales I have left over from the house to just wall in the camper for the winter.  I’m going to hang one of the billboard tarps from the trees over the camper to keep the bales dry It’s ok if they degrade a little because I’m going to use some of the wet ruined bales to mulch the garden this year.

I started on it, but didn’t want to hang the tarp first because it was supposed to snow and I wouldn’t have been here to knock it off and make sure it didn’t just collapse and tear the tarp.  Even with just third of it I’ve done it’s made a difference.  I put that part up to block the prevailing winds, but I’m sure once I get the bottom done all the way around it’ll make the floor a lot warmer too.

Camper partially surrounded with balesI wouldn’t have been here because I was supposed to be in Minnesota at the family Christmas, but the same storm that’s snowing on me made a barricade of ice between here and there.  Snow is one thing.  Ice is another beast altogether.  I’m still going up there, but just going to miss today and post-Christmas eve.  I’d been looking forward to seeing everybody and I’m glad I still will.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals for the winter out here.  The first thing is to get the trailer baled and get the water running, especially the hot water.  I’ve been worried that the water might freeze in the tank or in the lines, but I think once it’s all baled in that won’t be a problem.

The next thing I’m going to do is make a hot bed, which is basically a cold frame that you put compost under to keep warm.  I’m going to try growing some greens and who knows what else in it.  It’s a stepping stone to a larger greenhouse I’d like to build out in the garden area.  I’ve already got some good ideas on the design.

My next bigger and much more expensive project is to start generating some power.  I didn’t really want to spend the money just yet, but I found an awesome deal on some amorphous silicon thin-film panels. They were only 98 cents/watt, which is outrageous considering the next cheapest I’d ever found before was $1.74/watt and that was at this same web site.  I ordered 10 Kaneka 60W panels from Sun Electronics in case anyone else is looking for cheap panels.   The next cheapest place I found was Affordable Solar, but even it’s best deal is $2.69/watt and most of them are much much more.

Consider it stickeredThe camper has a battery-powered lighting system and I have an small inverter I can use for now, but 600W will be way more than enough for just me.  Even just taking the minimum average hours of full strength sunlight per year and minimum panel efficiency I should get at least 1.5 kWh/day or roughly enough juice to use my 90W power hungry giant laptop for almost 17 hours/day.  Obviously I wouldn’t use my computer that much, but it gives you an idea.

There are a still a lot more expensive components to buy and then I’ll have to assemble them, the toughest of which will be mounting the panels on adjustable mounts that I’m going to make myself.  The batteries and the charge controller will be the most expensive pieces, and the inverter isn’t cheap either.

I’ve learned to scale down my expectations somewhat on how quickly I can get things done, but not as much as I had worried I’d have to.  So, building the green house and the solar power system are my main things to get done, but somewhere in there I’m also going to set up a small biodiesel production system to process waste vegetable oil for use in the truck and future vehicles and engines.  That’ll cost a bit to set up as well, but nowhere near the expense of the off-grid power system.

Pink is not a snow fanAnd, as if I could get all of that done I’m also thinking about building a nicer larger guinea/chicken coop with insulation that I can fit inside the greenhouse.  It’ll keep the birds warmer and they also produce some CO2 and body heat for the plants.  At some point I’d like to be able to move the coop to another greenhouse though so I’m going to keep that in mind.

Other than that, the straw bale house is standing up nicely to the elements, even without plaster or gutters.  The tarps certainly aren’t very charming though.  Everything else said and done, I’m enjoying living in the camper.  It’s cozy, everything is within arm’s reach, and it takes 5 minutes to clean from top to bottom.  I hope everyone else out there is staying warm and dry.