As spring is fast approaching, it is time to turn the farm switch to "on". We had a much busier winter than expected, which unfortunately did not involve growing any produce.
Jeremy spent the fall and winter building a new high tunnel and solar heating system for the greenhouse. This will enable us to expand our indoor production greatly. We are both very excited about having 3 times the greenhouse space as last season. What that translates to is more early spring produce (greens, radishes, and scallions) and more tomatoes in the summer.
Last Fall we received a grant from the State of VT to build a solar heated germination chamber in one of the high tunnel greenhouses as a research project. We are researching the feasibility of using solar hot water for supplemental heating in the greenhouse. The idea is to heat a very small portion of the greenhouse rather than heating the entire volume of the building. While we have not artificially heated our high tunnels until now, we feel that this system fits with our philosophy in that we are still only using the sun and water to grow plants (no fossil fuels). What we did was create a radiant floor heating system in a raised bed and then covered that with a cloth cover (row cover). So far the system has been able to keep the soil in the bed between 50F-55F and the air temperature 3F warmer than the rest of the greenhouse. The next test is to set the soil to 70F and see if we can keep the air temp 20F above ambient.
Finally, the most exciting news is Caitlin's winter growing project... a baby! We have a new addition to Gildrien Farm arriving soon. The due date is March 13th, which can mean any day now. Much of our winter was spent preparing for the baby and now we are waiting for the baby to arrive.
The summer seems to be pretty thoroughly over, though the Eye in the Sky
claims that there's some more warm weather coming. We've gotten about to the end of the summer foods - we gave pretty much the last of the tomatoes and definitely the last of the cukes to the CSA this week - and the fall goodies are coming in. The cherry tomatoes are the only thing still going in the greenhouse, which has been mostly taken over by drying onions and curing winter squash, but even they are starting to look tired.
We're getting ready to start on our new greenhouses - just got the building permits last week. Soon we'll rip all the tomato plants out of this house and plant some spinach and carrots, probably; the big new one will be our tomato house next year and this one will probably be our plant house, where we'll start all our seedlings. The third one will be much smaller, and probably an experimental house, a place to play with new ideas. It's pretty exciting to contemplate the possibilities of all this new greenhouse space - even though we don't heat our greenhouses, they provide enough protection to really change the scope of what it's possible to grow up here, and we're really looking forward to exploring that a lot more in the coming seasons.