Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2014 new year dawning

January 21, 2014

Lime Ridge, Wisconsin

After losing reliable internet service in June of 2012, I put several of my web-based projects on standby but I'm happy to report that I've reconnected! God willing... 2014 will be a wonderful year of building, growing, and sharing.

Although I did go into an internet-semi-sleep-mode for 18 months, in real-life I have been busy building a flock of chickens and ducks, constructing domes, and meddling in concrete and hypertufa projects. I won't go into detail other than share a couple photos of what's underway now and I'll fill in the past in bits and pieces later on.


32 foot dome greenhouse waiting for spring...

A 32 foot dome was put up in October, 2013. Construction was placed on hold awaiting spring. I intend to use this dome to grow early produce for the farm stand. In the background to the left is the 16x32 foot hoop-house with the subterranean heating and cooling system. Right now, it is being utilized to shelter my flock of ducks and chickens but seed starting will begin there in a few more weeks. The birds and the seed trays will have to be kept separated. Ha!

Another smaller dome was constructed last summer which will be home to our 'farm stand'. It will also be used to start or house plants when that time comes. Hundreds of flower bulbs were planted around the dome... can't wait for spring to see how it all looks! However, this morning we are entering another polar vortex with temperatures around -6 (6 below zero!) and forecast to fall further in coming days.

Marigold stands in the snow next to 16 foot dome.
 I have two seed trays containing leeks, swiss chard, and a few tomatoes that were started a few days ago, under grow lights in the basement. These were just old packets of seeds I planted as a test run and to push the season as far as I possibly can. Who knows what the weather will be like in February or early March? I might be able to set these plants out in the hoop-house? 

The Future

Today is a back-to-work-day but before that I will prepare some germination tests of some home-harvested onions, beens, and corn seeds. It is my intention to continue to share the activities at Narrows Creek Garden and Greenhouse through this blog and through Narrows Creek Garden and Greenhouse  You Tube channel  I haven't put up any videos there yet but if you are interested please follow. I've been enjoying my new internet access and spent half the night watching You Tube videos on gardening and seed starting. I just love it!  I hope I can share something of what I'm doing that will bring that same joy, ideas, and knowledge to others who share my interests.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Part 11

Pipes are no longer under water but there is some mud and moisture, maybe as the air begins to circulate it will dry out?

I bought a sump pump yesterday and within an hour the underground system was pumped out. I haven't had to run the pump again all day.

I fasten another barrel over the fan, so that the intake air is being taken from about 7 feet above the floor.
I installed the circulation fan and the two thermostats that operate it so the circulation system is now in operation. I'm not sure how many of the tubes are open but clearly some of them are; there is a nice breeze circulating through the underground tubes. The underground tiles are cold though and tonight the air temperature coming out of the ground is only 34 degrees tonight. It's going to take some time and some warm days to raise that subterranean temperature. This is the grate over where the air comes out from the underground system. A little restrictive maybe?

I also insulated the north wall with R-19 insulation and covered the outside with construction fabric. I'll get the plastic on the interior wall tomorrow. I also filled in around the base so cold air isn't coming in like it was. Even today before all the progress was made sealing it up and with the fan circulating through the underground system part of the afternoon, the temperature got up to 71 degrees. If it's sunny tomorrow I will be surprised if it doesn't reach into the 80's.

Right now, the system is working but cold. On previous nights without the fan running the indoor and out door temperature were the same once the sun went down. Tonight, with the system running, the outdoor temperature is 22 degrees but the greenhouse is at 29. Not a big difference but I expect improvements as the system thaws and recovers from a bad start.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Weathering the First Storm - Part 10

This greenhouse is 32 feet long, 16 feet wide and about 12 feet high covered in a single sheet of plastic that measured about 32x34 feet

Over the past 24-48 hours, we've had rain, snow, sleet, thunderstorms, and a driving wind from the east. The wind speed has varied from 15 and 25 miles per hour with gust to 40 mph and the greenhouse withstood the pounding without any sign of failure! That is a very good sign and a wonderful accomplishment. I attribute success in weathering the storm to the aluminum channels and wiggle-wire used to secure the plastic to the frame and the basic structural strength and design.

A thermometer censor is suspended and loosely wrapped in aluminum foil to reflect light and heat and send an accurate temperature reading to the bass station in the house on my desk.

The structure is solid and able to stand up to what should be some of the upper limits of bad weather in our area. Now to work on some of the failings. The underground water is one of the first and worst problems that I must try to tackle. So far, siphoning the water out has been the only successful way of removing the water. My shop vac would not suck up the water from the depth it's at and I don't have sump pump. Purhaps I'll have to buy one and see if I can use that to dry the system out.
Looking down the barrels to the opening connections to the 650 feet of underground drain tile. This is the waterlogged Subteranian Heating and Cooling System. In the photo, you can see perhaps a dozen pipe ends in the lower barrel, there are actually 27! There are many more below the water level in that photo. It also appears that the lower barrel is distorted in places due to the weight and pressure of the soil. That may have been an error caused by choosing an older (lighter) plastic barrel for that first one, different than the other barrels used in the system. The long white to green line in the photo is the garden hose that I've been using to siphon the water out.

Starting the Mantis Wisconsin - 24th of March, 2011, 10:15 AM. The temperature outside is 22 degrees. The greenhouse, for all the cracks and open spaces left to be closed up is already up to 46 degrees. The sun hasn't shown for several days and while the ground outside is frozen solid, I started the Mantis tiller and tilled up a little section in the greenhouse floor in the corner. Nothing frozen although the soil temperature is around 32 degrees, Nice! I'll wait a few more days to get things organized but I think Spinach could go in the ground in the corner right now or very soon? Maybe I'll get an old window and make an area to cover and start some cold weather seeds for the next few days or weeks until spring arrives a little more?

Friday, March 18, 2011

St. Patricks Day - Part 9

I finally installed one layer of covering over the greenhouse on March 17th, 2011. It was a quiet windless morning when I began, but before I finished three hours later, the wind had kicked up a little. The plastic cover is secured to the greenhouse frame using 8 foot lengths of aluminum channel and wiggle wire. Working as quickly as possible as the wind increased, I worked the wiggle wire into the channels around the base and over the curved ends of he greenhouse.

The snow is still melting as winter draws to a close and there is mud everywhere as my fingers attest! Blackbirds and robins began arriving a day before I covered the greenhouse and their songs filled the air as I worked. I put the cover on by myself and it wasn't too hard. I tied a rope to each corner of the plastic, threw the rope over the hoop frame, and went on the other side and pulled! Not too hard. It would have been easier and faster if there had been two or four people but with so much mud, I didn't want to bother others. The channels were all installed and the weather seemed acceptable so it was kind of a spur of the moment decision to attempt to cover it before I had to go to work in the afternoon. It went surprisingly well.

Inside, I still have gates that I used as scaffolding and the soil still needs to thaw in places. I cut a top opening in one of the barrels that connect to the underground pipe maze and discovered that it is filled with water! That's not good. I began siphoning the water out this afternoon but may have to invest in a sump pump, but it appears that my whole entire underground maze is water logged! At least it isn't frozen.

The temperature in the greenhouse was around 80 degrees when the sun was shinning, but dropped into the 70's when it was overcast. Right now, the temperature is 25 degrees, the same as it is outside. There are a lot of open holes around the base where the dirt has settled and the north wall is only covered in light plywood with lots of cracks.

I bought a cheap $15 indoor/outdoor thermometer and put the outdoor sensing unit in the greenhouse and the display is sitting on my desk. It records the high/low temperatures for the day which I wanted but resets at midnight which I didn't want. I had hoped I would be able to scroll back through days past to check that information but not so. I'll have to remember to write down the temperature extremes in the evening before midnight or they'll be lost.

I couldn't believe how bright it was inside. Even though the plastic isn't clear, I found it necessary to ware sunglasses while working in the greenhouse. The plastic is SunMaster and rated at 92% light transmission and I think I got a very, very, lite sunburn this afternoon.

Now with the greenhouse covered, I will begin to fill in the cracks and holes around the base and finish covering and insulating the north wall. The second thing is to get the water logged heat storage area dried up at least to the point that air can begin circulating through it. After siphoning this afternoon, the water level is down to where the underground tubes begin but is still about 4 feet deep!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday's Progress, last day of 2010 - Part 8

I made a good start framing up the north wall today, that included setting the door in place. The door looks rather fancy for a greenhouse door, but as they say, looks can be deceiving.
I picked the door up at a local St. Vincent de Paul store a while back specifically for the greenhouse and the price tag is still attached, $15.00! It's a nice metal exterior door still in a frame. It has two little spots of rust that may have looked tacky on a house in the city but the door looks classy on my country greenhouse.

As you can see from the top photo, the fog was dense today, so dense that it was a fine mist at times and I had to wear my wide-brimmed summer straw hat to keep my glasses from misting up. The temperature rose into the 40's and the garage floor was as wet from condensation as it was outside. A lot of the snow cover melted.

The ground became muddy. I decided not to try and build the north wall inside the garage and move it into place with the tractor as I had planned, but rather, I constructed it directly at the greenhouse.

The weather is predicted to change tomorrow and become much colder. One of my brothers (and possibly my friend the slacker, Jason! Ha! Ha!) is planning to come and help me, but we probably won't be able to install the plastic. Wind. I think we may be able to complete the north wall and begin installing the aluminum channels that will hold the plastic in place though.

Even now, I hear the heavy bell wind-chime clanging outside, telling me that the wind is beginning to pick up. Tomorrow is a new day, and a new year... though it is actually already 1:00am January 1st, 2011. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Weekend Construction Plans - Part 7

December is ending with more than a foot of snow on the ground, fog over the land, and the greenhouse still not finished. I have finished the metal portion of the structure with three lengthwise stringers bolted in place and most of the scaffolding removed. I made significant progress yesterday when I moved a large wood furnace into the greenhouse. I know, that's not how a subterranean heated greenhouse is supposed to be heated, but I assume by now I may have significant underground freezing in the labyrinth of underground pipes. I may need some additional heat for a few weeks after the greenhouse is covered to thaw things out, so I moved the wood furnace in place before finishing the north wall. Once the structure is covered and the fans are in place and operating, I plan to fire up the furnace to expedite unthawing the soil inside and the subterranean heating system.

Moving the furnace has been a chore in itself. It was in an old building, difficult to access, and the furnace weighs perhaps 600lbs. I used the front-end loader of the tractor with a 4x4 chained to the bucket to lift the heavy heater and carry it to the greenhouse. The furnace is shielded and will have additional duct work attached that will circulate when the subterranean fan turns on.
The weather today and tomorrow is predicted to be much warmer than it has been, in the 30's and 40's, and even though it may rain, I hope to complete the north wall on Friday and Saturday along with the aluminum rails for attaching the double plastic cover. After that, I'll have to wait for a calm day without wind to put the plastic covers on. After that, I can begin to work inside installing the fans and it should actually warm up during the day to make the work more pleasant.

My four-day New-Year Weekend will be a busy weekend. My goal is to have the cover in place or at least ready to be installed on the first day appropriate for the task in 2011. Today is my last (scheduled) work-day for 2010 and I may get out 4 hours early using the last of my vacation time. Hopefully I'll have progress to report on the north wall by tomorrow night and enough energy to blog progress...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Delays - Part 6

Five weeks have passed since my last update to this blog and progress on the greenhouse has been slow. It took more time than I thought to complete the backfill and sometimes rain, or muddy conditions after the rain, made it impossible to work. Then things began to freeze and now they are blanketed under 6 inches of snow. Still, I think I will be able to complete the project before Christmas, and maybe if I augment with some wood heat, have it thawed out sometime in January.

I had to work for 17-days strait at my day job, and that really tired me out and delayed the work on the greenhouse, but I needed to make money too. With only two days off and another 8-days to work, I'll finally have a 4-day weekend starting Friday, then maybe I'll be able to write about some progress.

Besides working out in the cold, the backfilled frozen lumpy ground made it nearly impossible to place ladders for installing the three stringers that will run end to end in the structure. A few days ago, I thought of setting up some gates from a horse arena inside the greenhouse and then placing large flat sheets of wood on top of those gates to serve as a scaffolding. It worked great. Six feet off the ground I am able to work at the height I need to be to install the stringers. In a few hours I had the first stringer bolted in place. I have two more to go and then I'll start on the north end with the doorway. I'll build that end in the garage and move it into place on the greenhouse with the tractor's front end loader.

Snow fell over the last two days and that will complicate the project even more, but I intend to keep trying. Hopefully, the cover will be on before Christmas!

The thermostat apparatus has been completed for the fan controllers. A friend built that for me for the cost of materials, about $80. It's made to plug into a electrical current source and then in turn have the main circulation fan plugged into the outlet mounted to the bottom of the box. Two thermostats, one for temperatures above the high setting (around 80 degrees) the other for when the temperature drops below the low setting (around 60 degrees) will operate relays that in turn will power the outlet that the circulation fan is plugged into. It's designed to be portable rather than a stationary mount. This allowed my friend to build the unit at his place rather than have to come out and hard wire the apparatus in my greenhouse.

The wires attaching the two thermostats are short but will be replaced with longer wires once the thing is set up in the greenhouse. I'll mount the 'high' temperature thermostat up near the ceiling because that's the intake air will come from. The second thermostat will be mounted lower at about table level. That one will turn the fan on when heat is needed at night.