Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Passive Solar Greenhouse Breathes Life into the Winter Garden

The garden in the quiet of winter is a still and silent place, but its beauty is unfading.  The only discernible sound is the snow crunching underneath your boots and twigs snapping as they brush past you.  Tips of sage leaves and onion shoots hardly peek through layers of snow, only to find themselves buried once again by the fresh dust that falls from the grey sky above.  A squirrel nibbles on remnants unearthed from an aging compost pile.  The garden appears void of life, but its inhabitants sleep quietly underneath blankets of snow, preparing to emerge with new vigor as the season of spring approaches.

A quiet winter stroll down a frost-laden path takes you past tangles of dormant rose beds, twisting branches whose buds have yet to appear.  A simple greenhouse constructed from salvaged wood, metal scraps, and recycled window panes greets you.  Its shabby appearance is hardly inviting, but you sense a feeling of warmth from  within.

Upon prying open a frozen door, you are hit with a rush of warm, humid air, and you find yourself immersed in beds of spicy salad greens, herbs, and mouthwatering tomatoes that hang about from crawling vines.   The warmth of this tiny indoor ecosystem envelopes you, and you slowly breathe in the sweet, earthy aroma of so much life contained within such a small space, with nothing but winter on the other side of the glass.   Invigorating and inviting, this beauty and peacefulness can be achieved with less effort than one might imagine.

This is our vision.  And it no longer seems so unattainable, now that our groundwork is in place.    Construction of our greenhouse is complete… now we need to add a little more love to bring it to life.

The design

We are proud to have constructed this compact little greenhouse, which requires no supplemental heat source other than the sun, from nearly entirely salvaged materials.  The greenhouse measures only 10’ x 12’.

A solid concrete foundation with a depth of 3 feet is further insulated by sheets of insulation under the ground and thick insulation built into the north-facing wall.  Garden beds are built directly into the floor of the greenhouse, keeping the original landscape intact, and with the objective of keeping the ground unfrozen throughout the winter months and providing the most natural habitat possible for the plants.  The floor of the greenhouse is pure soil; this helps maintain the proper growing temperature to simulate outdoor growing conditions.

A strong wood frame built from scrap wood, old windows that were picked up for free from the side of the road, and an old door that was destined for the dumpster form the structural components of the greenhouse.   Ten 55-gallon steel drums, also salvaged, are now filled to the brim with water that is heated by the sun and maintains a consistent temperature- this stored water is the thermal mass that both heats and cools the greenhouse, making the greenhouse self-regulating despite the ever-fluctuating temperatures we experience in Colorado.  The steel drums sit atop a large concrete slab that supports the back wall.   The entire back wall of the greenhouse is insulated with thick insulation, and its many layers keep those little plants toasty on even the coldest of nights.

A thriving worm farm makes its home inside the greenhouse during the winter, and the glorious vemi-compost these worms produce becomes an essential element of our soil when the gardening season begins.

Why it works:

  • Optimum amount of stored water (thermal mass)
  • Colorado’s 300+ days of intense sun
  • Thermal insulation built into back (north-facing) wall & roof
  • Compact design and south-facing windows
  • Plants are planted directly in beds built into floor of greenhouse (directly in soil)
  • Hinged windows provide ventilation when the sunlight is too strong

Dreams of a greenhouse that would produce food year round have finally fallen into place, and we gaze upon this lovely structure that was built with so much love.  We have big plans for this humble little building, and we eagerly anticipate its great potential, knowing that we have taken one step in the right direction toward the more sustainable lifestyle that we yearn for.

This greenhouse has breathed a new kind of life into our winter backyard garden  that we never thought possible.

Using Wool Full Time & Choosing the Right Wool Cover for Your Baby

Many cloth diapering parents are aware that it is possible to cover their baby’s cloth diaper with a wool cover, but few realize that it is possible to use wool both full-time and exclusively.

When we first discovered wool in our home, we had no intention of using it full-time.  Up until that time, we had been unable to find a diaper that would keep our baby dry at night, so we invested in a wool soaker, thinking we would use it for nights only.  The soaker worked so well that we purchased several other wool covers shortly afterward, and we quickly found ourselves so enamored with wool that we replaced all of our baby’s polyester covers with wool.  I cannot remember the last time I used a polyester cover, and the truth is, wool works so incredibly well that I don’t miss those old polyester covers- not even one bit.  And my guess is that our son doesn’t miss them either.

How many wool covers will I need to use wool full-time?

The exact amount of covers you will need will again depend on your budget, but the beauty of wool is that you can easily get by with very few covers.  Continue reading

Recipes from the Garden: Beet Ravioli

A far cry from a gourmet chef, any attempts at fancy cooking were quickly forgotten once I became a mother.  Spending hours in the kitchen piecing together detailed recipes was no longer an option as I suddenly found myself struggling to even put dinner on the table.  During those first few weeks of new motherhood, I felt certain that we would be forever doomed to a life of convenience food and take-out.  Fortunately, I was wrong, and here I am today, back in the kitchen, complete with a curious toddler on my hip, and this time I am here to stay.

There’s nothing more rewarding than combining one’s love for gardening with a love for cooking, especially when the cooking involves discovering creative and unique ways to prepare something as unexciting as a beet (did I say unexciting?  I love them, I truly do, but after months of pulling beet after beet out of storage, the excitement tends to slowly fade…)

I confess, this recipe took me two days from start to finish, but it was worth every minute.  We all thought so…even the little guy, a recently self-proclaimed hater of beets, who lost himself in the moment, entirely unaware that he was even eating a beet.

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A New Year & Our Path to a More Sustainable Life

There’s something about the start of a new year that brings out the dreamers in all of us.  Hope for a brighter future, dreams about all that can be achieved in life.

The growth of our business has been the focus of our energy over this past year, and we have been blessed to experience the beginning of something truly wonderful- along with an amazing community of like-minded, loyal customers.  We are left with the feeling of hope, and exciting anticipation of what lies ahead for our family and our little store this year.

As we pause for a moment to breathe and reflect following our busiest holiday season yet, we take time to consider our own goals for the coming year.  Our realization of late is this: all of our goals lead us down one path- the path to a more sustainable life.  We invite you to follow us as we explore these goals, make  new discoveries, and experiment with both the planned & unplanned events that will lead us to our ultimate goal.

As we dream and plan for our future, here is a glimpse at what we are up to as this new year begins:

Planning our 2012 garden.   The garlic is in the ground, old seeds have been saved, new seeds have been purchased, herbs are wintering in the greenhouse, and the new garden design plans are underway (with the help of a pencil, paper, and our tiny helper)

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