Race Against Winter- 2017

I've written for the past few years about our "Race Against Winter".  This year is no different, except that for so far, this fall has been very mild, very much to our advantage.

We have a number of projects, in addition to the regular annual items, that we've wanted to complete before the snow flies.  Two of them we've just completed, and I'll fill you in on them.

Five years ago, when we built our first greenhouse, a Rimol Rolling Thunder greenhouse, we used our tractor, excavator, and laser transit to "smooth" the ground for the rails.  Rimol recommends putting everything on level ground; however, that was not an option for us.  The area we wanted to place it on sloped to the south and to the west.  The rolling greenhouse and the rails it is on is oriented east-west, and the ground slopes 4' over the 200' span.  North to south, the ground dropped about 1-1/2'.  We ended up leveling the ground north to south by digging out the ground on the north side of the bed, but we only "flattened" the ground east to west, smoothing out humps and dips.  It still drops 4' over the 200' of the rails. We figured that it was important for the greenhouse to be level side to side, but less so end to end.  It does require us to use a small tractor and a four-wheeler to pull the rolling greenhouse uphill when we move it to the east.

We have another set of four beds to the north of the beds with the rolling greenhouse.  We had originally planned to duplicate the rails and rolling greenhouse there.  However, the amount of work to "level" the southerly beds deterred us from doing the same to northern beds.  Especially since those beds undulate east to west even more than the southern beds.

The point of all this is that the area between the two sets of beds has been kind of a mess the past five years.  We've called it half-affectionately, half derisively, "No Man's Land".  It's been on our work list for five years now to clear it out, level it, put in drainage, etc.  It just never rose up on the priority list high enough to make it happen.  We used it as a dump area for rocks and weeds.  We absolved ourselves of not clearing it out, by saying that it was a "hedgerow for pollinators".  Nevertheless, it was hard to traverse.  This year we finally got to it, although it was spread out over much of the summer, due to the wet weather.  With the help of some young contractors, we dug out a lot of soil, built a short railroad-tie retaining wall, dug a drainage trench with perf-pipe and stone, and covered it all with free wood chips from local tree-trimmers.  Earlier this week we got 4-1/2" of rain in two days, and "No Man's Land" responded exceptionally.  No puddles or standing water, no erosion, no problems.  Yay!!!

 

 "No Man's Land" project in process.

"No Man's Land" project in process.

 We sloped the ground slightly from the right beds toward the railroad tie retaining wall and dug a trench along the retaining wall.  Then we covered the ground with 6 mil poly, to help channel water toward the gutter and also be a weed barrier.  Then 4" perf-pipe in the gutter along with some crushed stone covered with landscape fabric.  Finally topped with wood chips.

We sloped the ground slightly from the right beds toward the railroad tie retaining wall and dug a trench along the retaining wall.  Then we covered the ground with 6 mil poly, to help channel water toward the gutter and also be a weed barrier.  Then 4" perf-pipe in the gutter along with some crushed stone covered with landscape fabric.  Finally topped with wood chips.

 Looking at No Man's Land from the other direction.

Looking at No Man's Land from the other direction.

The other project to report on, I honestly thought, until recently, might have to be deferred to next year.  Fortunately, we were able to get to it, and it turned out even better than I envisioned.  And that's the growing beds in our seedling greenhouse.  We only need to use the "seedling greenhouse" for seedlings for part of the year, and we've planned on using the space to grow winter greens in beds to maximize the utility of the space.  

Micah and I built wooden raised beds on top of the slab using hemlock boards he had reclaimed that were floorboards from an old mill in Keene.  Most likely they were well over a hundred years old.  It would be cool if they last that long in their new repurposed use.  We covered the inside with a layer of poly to protect them from constant moisture from the soil, to help them last longer.

Rich, Laurel, Micah, and I helped to fill the beds with a combination of loam, compost, and biochar.  As soon as they were filled, Laurel and Micah seeded them with a variety of greens.

Already some of the greens have sprouted, so we are well on our way to a greens-filled winter.

We also got our garlic beds prepped and ready for planting this week, and we will be getting the rolling greenhouse ready to be moved over the winter spinach bed soon.  We're nearing the end of our Race Against Winter.

 

 Loam  and compost piles outside the seedling greenhouse.

Loam  and compost piles outside the seedling greenhouse.

 Rich shoveling biochar into buckets to be carried into the greenhouse beds.

Rich shoveling biochar into buckets to be carried into the greenhouse beds.

 Laurel adding mix to bed.

Laurel adding mix to bed.

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 Asian greens have popped.  Turmeric and ginger in grow-bags behind.

Asian greens have popped.  Turmeric and ginger in grow-bags behind.

 Asian greens, on left rear, have popped.  Mixed greens, on right, not far behind.  Center bed was seeded a few days later and should be up soon.

Asian greens, on left rear, have popped.  Mixed greens, on right, not far behind.  Center bed was seeded a few days later and should be up soon.

 Laurel's saffron crocuses, also in the seedling greenhouse, are blooming, and she has been harvesting the saffron.  Can you say "paella"?

Laurel's saffron crocuses, also in the seedling greenhouse, are blooming, and she has been harvesting the saffron.  Can you say "paella"?