Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cold Frame Lessons and Woodstove Status

Let's talk about the good news first, shall we? The good news is, just the other night I had an arugula salad that I picked fresh from my garden in the wintertime. Fabulous! A little lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper -- yumola! Next year I think I will plant all arugula, kale and winter hardy lettuce (which seems to be doing just fine). I will also start my plants sooner. That is the good news. I am not discouraged. The plants are growing and happy and they require very little watering if any.
Now for the lessons .... err, bad news.
First, Eliot Coleman in his book Four Season Harvest recommended not painting the frames simply to avoid maintenance. "Hey!" I said to myself, "I don't mind painting and sanding every year, plus it will preserve the wood longer." The lesson is: Listen to Eliot Coleman. It's not just a matter of yearly maintenance. The temperatures that the wood experiences day to day, night to night is so extreme that in spite of my hard and careful work -- the paint is chipping. Everywhere. Even the glazing -- old and new -- is peeling off. It's a mess. Sad. Maybe an oil, or a stain would be better. Eliot just leaves his -- as is.
Here is my garden at the start of our last snow storm. Wisps of dried asparagus on the left side, broccoli on the far end (that finally called it a day and wilted), leeks and kale scattered throughout. In the foreground is where we planted our garlic. I put the wire fencing up because our dog was stomping through that area to short cut through to the front yard. Leeks are in the foreground, and although they look a little floppy here, they are doing just fine in the cold.
Here were the cold frames after the big storm we had just before Christmas.

Here is my progress as I was gently shoveling off the mounds of snow.

And then, alas, some glass fell into my mueslin greens. I'd put this pane upside down without thinking of the consequences. When the glazing fell off, the window was no longer being held onto the frame. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a big deal because of the wooden lip that the glass sits on. But, I put this frame on upside down. Ugh. I still have yet to fix this problem -- temporarily somehow. I think we may use Plexiglas glued or nailed to the top. For awhile I had cardboard covering the hole. Now I have a big piece of Styrofoam that came in some packaging laying on top and secured with large stones. We are expecting a lot of wind along with 4-8 inches of snow. Isn't this a sad sight?

On a brighter note, our wood stove is churning along nicely. We have our digital thermostats set to 60 degrees. I start the fire in the morning from the embers still burning from the night before (if everything went well) and get the temp up to a happy 68 degrees or even warmer. All from free wood in our back yard. Sometimes if I can't tolerate the morning cold I bring the temp up to 68 degrees with our furnace, then turn it back down and the wood stove just maintains the temp from there.
In any case, our first winter oil bill came and it was $156.13 for 71 gallons. For the same time period last year we used 97.4 gallons and using this year's prices we saved $57.81. I just called the oil guy to see if I could get the stats from my two previous bills (because I forgot to document them) and when he found out who I was he said "Hey! Your name came up the other day!" I told him that I'd bought a wood stove insert and he told the story of how he and his brother had been talking about whether or not to come by and fill up our tank -- wanting to be sure I didn't run out in the middle of winter. They decided that I probably didn't need any because the last time they were by I'd only taken 70 gallons -- he had remembered the exact amount -- and he'd seen smoke coming from the chimney and figured I'd gotten a wood stove. Isn't that funny?! I think you're doing pretty well when even the oil guy takes notice! Exciting!


Amy said...

For us non-gardeners...what is a cold frame?

geisme said...

Sandy, can I move in any time soon??? I'll chop wood & be your personal slave. :) okay, just kidding. Looks like y'all had a lovely Christmas. A blog you might be interested in checking out is She had some very interesting recipes. I haven't actually tried any of them yet, but I believe Dawn tried one the other day.

Sandy said...

A cold frame is like a little greenhouse that sits on top of your garden so that you can grow cold hardy veggies (greens mostly) in the wintertime. :)