Thursday, January 6, 2011

Project Plans 2011 : Cold Frame and Solar Dehydrator

It is a habit of mine to have several projects brewing about in my brain at the same time... Some times there are more projects floating around than others, and there are never more clogging my thoughts than at the beginning of each year when I have nothing to do outside other than plan, plan plan.

This year I decided that rather than making a new year's resolution, I would make a list of things I plan to try or at least research in the year 2011. The list itself is still in a sort of abstract internal-brainy-type state, but two of the things I'd like to do before growing season are to build a solar dehydrator, and several cold frames.

This past week, while visiting my aunt and uncle in Holland Michigan my dear aunt gave me several old wood-framed windows. I had posted earlier than week on facebook that I was hoping to make a cold frame and within moments she had commented, stating she had them up for grabs. I came home with six windows and one screen, and have been designing and planning cold frames ever since. I'm hoping to run a line of cold frames along the side of our raspberry patch, facing south, so that this fall I can easily plan late-season crops. I know of a few farms in the area that can successfully grow spinach almost all winter, and an added bonus of the rigid frame construction is that it's duck-proof. When I had hoops and plastic over one of my raised beds earlier this year, our Khaki Campbells basically had a heated spa in which to dine on the spinach leaves. I didn't notice them until they'd basically finished off the whole bed. I didn't get a single leaf! Ugh. Cold frames, however, will be much more difficult for the ducks to infiltrate.

Of course it wasn't until this morning that I'd considered using these windows for something else! I found some wonderful designs online for solar dehydrators, and this one definitely seems to be the easiest for me since I have a lot of corrugated metal lying around the farm from when I pulled it off the side of the barn. Using one window and one sheet of corrugated metal, plus some random lumber (must be untreated, now that I think of it!) I plan to make a dehydrator to use this spring, and I can't wait to make apple and pear chips, as well as dried veggies and berries!

I'll have to see if my aunt would be willing to part with a couple more windows so that I can build one of these. I'll be heading over there again sometime probably in February to visit my college roommate's parents' alpaca farm. I contacted them recently about driving the hour-and-a-half to their farm, station wagon laden with muck buckets, to muck their fields for them. Alpaca manure is not hot like horse or sheep, and so it is safe to directly apply to the gardens. My aunt was interested in joining me on my poo-y adventure, so I'll be heading to Holland to meet with her as well.

I'm hoping that once I get some of the maple sugaring done, and the syrup boiled later this winter, I'll have something great to barter with for future garden tools/manures/windows/etc. :)

(Note that in the space of discussing one, maybe two, of my 2011 projects, I have disclosed plans for no less than two additional projects... Yeesh. I love to keep busy!)

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