Monthly Archives: January 2012

Windows 2012

Mt Baker

This fall/winter has been unseasonably warm and dry.  Despite that, I’ve had to deepen drainage around the garlic and may also take a shovel to one end of the big tunnel’s ditches.  I got the tractor/tiller stuck at the south end while I was incorporating some of the leaves I had spread on top.  The water level seems to be less than a foot from the top.

My big concern was the new field at Dan’s which is at the bottom of the valley, right next to the canal that carries the excess away to Bader Beach on the west side of the island.  The advantage of this quarter acre of land is that it stays moist all summer, so hopefully I won’t need to irrigate.  The disadvantage is that, even in this relatively dry winter, the field got half submerged when we did get heavy rain for a few days.

Walking on this worked up soil meant sinking in almost to mid-calf.  Not only is that bad for the soil but it pretty much precludes the construction of anything on top of it including high tunnels.

While stewing about how busy I would be in mid-spring when things might dry out sufficiently to begin building while simultaneously needing to prepare soil and plant tomatoes (etc), I completely forgot about cold weather (which has also been rare this season).

But it’s here now.  While staging building materials on Friday near the work zone, I took an expeditionary walk atop the soil and, to my surprise, did not sink in.  The soil was just barely frozen.  I could actually drive the unloaded tractor/dumpcart over it.

This means that I now have a window of opportunity to get some work done albeit in more uncomfortable weather.  The forecast for this week has freezing lows and, given that the temps at 220m average a couple of degrees colder than the weather station, my bigger problem might be the extra work of getting through a few inches of frozen ground or dealing with snow.  So far there’s been only a light dusting.

But I’ll take it.  All other projects are now on hold.


Crapentry 101 : Turning lumber into shame

Jesus was a carpenter.  I’m no Jesus (even if I have a Rod complex).  My carpentry is terrible.  (Or maybe Jesus became the Messiah because His carpentry sucked, too).  What I mean to be plumb, level and square usually turns out askew*, aslant and abysmal.  While I take no pride in this disability, I am very grateful that at least I’m not building an ark. Recently I produced a cubic cubit of sawdust trying to get a length of 2X2 to fit.  I kept cutting and cutting and it was still too short (with thanks to Dad for that joke; apologies to everyone else).

The current project is a bottom-heated grow box inside the propagation tunnel.  Last year’s propane campstove-heated version was finicky and expensive.  The flame was either too hot or tended to blow out overnight.  And the heat didn’t distribute very well amongst the bottoms of all the trays.

I’m trying to scale up a version that Harry Burton built from scrap materials.  Mine will hold 24 standard trays, about 4 times the size of his.  Below the trays will be an 18″ cavity insulated on the floor and walls, forcing 98%** of the heat to escape upwards.  It will be powered by a 900W/1500W thermostatically-controlled space heater.  I’ll probably keep it at 900W so that the breaker doesn’t trip (I share this circuit with the farm house tenant’s workshop).  Hopefully this will be enough juice to warm the potting mix.  I have no plan B for replacing all this capacity, except hoping for more and faster global warming.  Fingers crossed for new Tar Sands pipelines.

The top of the unit will have a 3/8″ hardware cloth floor and a 3.5″ plywood lip to hold the trays.  Importantly, the floor and sides will be lined with  polyethylene.  This will allow me to top-water without worrying about soaking the heating cavity below.  Better yet, I can simply fill the 3.5″ deep soaking tray with, say, kelp-water and saturate the soil.

If it works, I can see this unit speeding up the watering process 63%*** by exchanging 24 trays at a time.  We spent an inordinate amount of time last year watering trays individually.

But this would require a reasonably plumb structure.  And, so far, it has just not happened that way.  Perhaps a prayer is in order?


* If your OS is linux-based, google has a clever result for this search term

** This is complete fabrication.

*** I’m on  a roll.