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Thinking outside the (greenhouse) box. October 30, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in chickens, gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood love the greenhouse our genius woodworking friend, Ken Burton, custom-designed and built for us when we bought our cottage home, Hawk’s Haven, in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. It’s big and bright, with a long in-ground raised bed on the low side and a long greenhouse bench on the high wall.

Ken’s goal was to make the greenhouse as solar-friendly as possible in our cold-winter climate. Glass covers the south-facing sloping wall, along with a glass window and glass door on the east and west sides. The north wall is white-painted wood to reflect the light pouring in from the south and to highlight the plants.

Under the bench, black-painted barrels hold water and act as solar collectors. And behind the north wall, a hayloft adds extra insulation in the form of straw bales for our chickenyard, while we stack wood for our woodstove beneath the loft, which also serves as added insulation..

But we think Ken’s most brilliant innovation was to use the sliding glass doors normally used for deck or patio doors as the long windows on the south-facing, sloping side. They’re double-paned for insulation and let in a ton of light. Over and below them, Ken added rows of screened pull-down windows so we could open them for fresh air and circulation (we also open the screened end-wall window and glass door).

The other day, as Silence and I were furiously hauling our bazillion plants back from the deck to the greenhouse for the winter (it’s already been in the 20s here at night, a real aberration, as we can usually leave the plants out well into November), our friend Ben was struck by an idea. Not a MacArthur “genius award”-worthy idea, no doubt, but still.

Our sliding glass doors that lead to our deck are designed so that one slides over the other, and if you wish, you can pull a full-length screen over the open door to let in fresh air. So why couldn’t you design a greenhouse wall of sliding glass doors that do that, too? One door would be fixed in place, and the other would move over it, and you could pull the screens to let in tons of fresh air to circulate, make sure the greenhouse didn’t overheat in summer, and combat fungal diseases and the like, without letting in bugs.

Three sets of doors would be plenty for most home gardeners, and what a gain in greenhouse circulation! Our greenhouse is still going strong, but if we ever need an update, we’ll see what Ken thinks about this idea. Meanwhile, what do you think about it?

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Birds in the greenhouse. July 16, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Delilah keeps finches in her greenhouse. The little birds add life and delight, do some pest patrolling, and are spoiled rotten, with nests, buffets of various foods and treats, and other amenities. (We’d expect no less of Delilah.)

In our friend Ben’s and Silence Dogood’s greenhouse here at Hawk’s Haven, our cottage home in the precise middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, however, we have not managed to get around to installing finches. We have not even managed to get around to installing our much-anticipated anoles, despite having the most luxuriant terrarium known to man or beast. (Even our professional botanic garden/Martha Stewart alum friend, Sarah, could not stop oohing and aahing over it.)

So you can imagine our friend Ben’s (and our puppy Shiloh’s) astonishment last week when we went to turn on the greenhouse lights and discovered a finch in the greenhouse. This one was a house finch, as opposed to an exotic finch like Delilah’s, but still, there it was. After returning Shiloh to the house, our friend Ben opened the greenhouse door and managed to eventually coax the finch to fly out.

Then, yesterday, Shiloh and our friend Ben encountered not one but two finches in the greenhouse. They appeared to be holing up in the enormous lemon grass plant in our in-ground bed. Shiloh was extremely reluctant to depart in the face of this interesting development, but eventually our friend Ben managed to haul her back to the house (and a highly amused Silence) and stagger back out to shoo the finches out yet again.

I have no idea where they came from; as far as I can see, there aren’t any openings bigger than a ladybug could get through (and yes, maybe I should put a “Ladybugs Welcome!” sign out front). Now every morning as Shiloh and I make our rounds, I’m concerned that we’ll find three, then four, then five, and etc. finches in the greenhouse. Perhaps our friend Ben should just assume they want to be there and start setting out food and water. Whatever the case, I hope they’re snacking on a bug or two as long as they’re there.