Planned Relevance

Another great post from Ben Hewitt.

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Almost Ready

DSC_0604A view of the new nursery greenhouse from the street.

DSC_0607The steep pitch sheds the snow pretty well. We still need a warm, calm day to install the second layer of plastic.


A great deal has been accomplished in the past few weeks. Tables have been built…


And topped with wire for good drainage.

DSC_0683Shelby/Vanna, shows off the tables that are all done. Moisture-proof wiring and lights have all been installed. Black painted barrels are ready to be filled with water, once the compost is in place behind the north wall. The barrels will absorb heat from the sun during the day, and then give it off slowly during the night.

DSC_0685This is the blower with a thermostat for circulation of air from inside the greenhouse, through the compost behind the wall and back inside. About half of the compost is on site here, being mixed and readied.


Meanwhile, there are several roofs to be fixed. The shed roof was in horrible condition, leaking badly and nearly ready to collapse.  Once this project is done, we will have a pitched dormer over a new loading dock accessing the back door of the cooler. They are also building some dry storage for boxes of tomatoes, onions, and other things that don’t go into the cooler, but which need a cool dry place away from the sun. The next roof on the list is the one over the chicken coop.

As part of the long range plan, we will move the chickens out of the barn completely and use their space for something else. Arks, or moveable chicken tractors will be built so the chickens can be moved about to forage and fertilize, and then parked next to the barn where they’ll be easily accessed during the winter months.DSC_0681

New timbers and framing were needed to keep the roof from falling in! This project happened just in time before the foot+ of snow we are getting today, and the potential for even more big snow forecast for Sunday!



Filed under Compost, Farm Hack, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Spring, Sustainability

Greenhouse Progress…

DSC_0567 Neat, huh? The concrete on the North side has been painted black to absorb more of the sun’s heat.

DSC_0568The blower has a temperature controller to turn it on to a certain setting.

DSC_0564Soon, a compost pile will be built to cover this welded steel tube to circulate air pulled from inside, through the pile to be warmed, and then back into the greenhouse. DSC_0562Meanwhile, Andrew and Conor from Black Earth Compost brought their clatterbox. It’s not really called a clatterbox, it’s a device that’s going to help them to screen out the fines to bag up the compost for sale. It’s going to be an infernal machine. Loud and clackety. But it should do the job once it’s all welded up. Check them out at


Did I mention that half the compost is for us to use on the farm? So far they’ve made about 200 cu yds of rich, black, nutritious “black gold” for our gardens and fields.DSC_0571

All of these young men are coming up with innovative “farm hacks” on a daily basis.

DSC_0570The Spring-like weather of late has made the ground approaching the compost into a quagmire. We will be putting down some stones to create a road out there. It’s time to build that road, as we plan to keep hosting these folks in their endeavor. It’s become a great partnership! Yesterday, Andrew and I went around to a few restaurants in Gloucester and met with great success. We’ll be bringing our vegetables this summer to Plum Cove Grind in Lanesville. They are going to use some for their salads and lunch offerings, and also sell retail, as well as become a drop site for CSA shares.

The Gloucester House wants our veggies too. This is huge, as this very busy seafood restaurant serves 1500 on a busy Saturday night. At first I was skeptical that this would be a good fit. But they assured us that we won’t have to supply all their veggie needs, and they will be happy to work with us on whatever we can provide. They will even come to the Cape Ann Farmer’s Market on Thursdays to pick up their order! They plan to develop some “local” offerings, such as a salad with our greens mix, along with whatever other vegetables we can supply them throughout the summer. This is a wonderful development for us. It’s going to be a big year!

DSC_0572Meanwhile, inside the large hoop house, the spinach is ready for harvest. Delicious!


Filed under Compost, CSA Shares, Farm Hack, Greenhouse, Sustainability

Just What We Do, by Ben Hewitt

This from my friend Ben Hewitt, will make you think. I have a real problem with today’s obsession of treating food as medicine, which just adds to the hysteria over food choices. “Eat real food, not so much, mostly plants,” Michael Pollan. My mantra.

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Filed under Canning and Preserving, Cooking with Fresh Vegetables, Lessons Learned, Sustainability, Uncategorized

Covering Up Ahead of the Storm- Phase 2

Happy New Year! On the first day of 2014, in the waning hours of daylight, some very good friends braved the cold to help us get the first layer of plastic on the new nursery greenhouse. We wanted it to get it on ahead of the giant N’or Easter that is snowing down on us today.  They’re predicting over a foot of snow, and now we won’t have to shovel as much to continue working! There’s still lots more to do before we can make this a working, heated nursery!DSC_0488

Over the past few days the guys have been preparing: framing in the ends and installing double channel over the curved arch, and along both sides. Later, they’ll build removable end walls to allow venting in the heat of summer. For now, they’ll seal off the ends with plastic, and install a person-sized entry door. The knee-wall on the south side of the house is open framed, and the extra plastic will be rolled up on a system that will allow more venting along the entire side.

Before the plastic installation, a small fire gave off just enough heat to warm our hands.


Meet Colton Russell, our newest farmer, born two days before Thanksgiving. He came outside to check on his father’s handiwork. It won’t be long before he’s pitching in on one of the many projects around here.


Bill and Mike and Dan are installing the last pieces of double channel that holds the plastic in place.DSC_0469

It was a bit of a challenge to hold on to the giant piece of plastic during installation. Under ideal conditions, you want a calm day with no wind. Yesterday was not bad, but not quite ideal. Most of the day was cold and windy, but the wind died down enough late in the day to make this operation at least possible. We fought with a few good gusts to keep everything in place long enough to install all the wiggle wire that holds the plastic firmly in place inside the channel.DSC_0475

Nancy noted that the temperature was warmer inside, mostly because it was out of the wind.


While all of this was going on, Andrew and Justin (two of the Black Earth Compost guys who do our compost operation here, more on that later…) delivered their skid-steer, a machine that will allow them to push compostable materials against the concrete wall along the north side of the greenhouse. But before that, a large steel manifold will be bolted in place along that wall, to allow warm airflow from the compost pile to passively heat the greenhouse.

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Turning Our Backs to Separation

Happy New Year, and welcome 2014!
It’s a clean slate, and we all get to write on it. What’s this year ahead going to look like? We can only wait and see, but in the meantime, we’ve got a greenhouse to build and seeds to order…

Reblogging this from Ben Hewitt, Thank you Ben!

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Nursery Greenhouse – Phase 2!

It’s happening! Work is underway again on our new heated nursery greenhouse.


It is that time of year, when we finally have time to work on projects that we can’t get to during the busy season of planting, harvesting and marketing. …(and then there’s Christmas and all its related activities…)

You might remember Phase 1 from this earlier post.


When this is all done, we will have a place to call our own that we can walk to, after several years of hauling soil and seeds and trays to an offsite greenhouse in the next town over.

This is even more exciting, as we are experimenting with sustainable methods to heat it. There will be a double, inflated plastic layer that fastens into this double channel…


And it is to be heated by a pile of working compost that’s soon to be built behind the cement block wall on the North side. Michael has welded up a steel tube manifold that they’ll bury in the compost. The two open ends will emerge through the concrete wall inside, at either end of the greenhouse. A fan will blow air into one end, and out of the other end will come air that has been heated by the compost. Since compost gets up to 165 degrees, we should see a significant warming effect inside the greenhouse on the coldest of winter nights. This blower will be set up on a thermostat, so it only kicks on when the air cools to a certain level. We will also use a woodstove for a backup.

By February or March, we plan to start growing trays of onions and leeks and celery. We will definitely be getting back into using soil blocks too!


Filed under Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Sustainability, Uncategorized