For better or worse, the race to get projects done before the ground freezes is over, and I think we won.

The temperatures around here have dropped.  At the moment, it’s 17 degrees F outside, and a big snow dump is predicted today – the first serious snow of the year.  So a set of projects we have been throwing ourselves into for weeks is locked in ice and will soon be buried under a thick blanket of snow.  Hooray!

We have been pushing to build our greenhouse growing boxes (see my previous post Greenhouse Almost There ) and fill them with a growing medium made by mixing soft, absorbent organic material with  some of the rock hard clay removed when our barn site was excavated.

While Doug crafted the wooden growing boxes, I sliced and diced with shovel and pitchfork – mixing the medium on the nice clear, flat site of recent bonfires.  As each round of boards was done, I would have the soil to fill it ready.  We stayed pretty much in synch all the way along, and it’s been a most satisfying project.

The goal is to be ready to plant into them in late winter/early spring.  I can almost taste those tender little baby carrots and beets and crisp leaves of chard and spinach now.

Saturday and Sunday we mixed the final growing medium and wheel barrowed as much as we can into the boxes.  We are leaving the last load of dirt in the Powerwagon for now until we can put an edging strip along the inside rim of the boxes to hold the lining in place and reinforce the top edges.

.,.This clay was just too rock-hard frozen to break up with shovels, so it went back to the clay pile till next year.

But as often happens we arrived with one plan in mind and immediately changed our plans to fit the reality.  We have not yet had time to finish the ends of our greenhouse.  They are covered with sheets of plastic from a roll we keep in the barn.  We had hoped to have the ends of the greenhouse finished permanently by winter, but …

..Not quite air tight.

The problem with the plastic sheeting is that it breaks down in UV light and after several years on the job, holes were appearing on the west end.   When we arrived Saturday, a big wind had shredded the weakened plastic film and the greenhouse was no warmer than the out of doors.

So our first task was to take it apart and put it back together again.  I also brushed about a half inch of snow off the south facing polycarbonate panels.

Sweeping the greenhouse is a regular winter chore.

..Closed for the winter and snug as a bug.

By the time we had sealed the west end, it was starting to warm up in there.  It rose up to about 60 when the outdoor temperature was in the 30s.  Greenhouse in action!

At the Farmers Market Saturday we listened to several farmers talk about what happens when you keep a hoop house in one place too long.  The ground under it never freezes and soon you have insect problems that cannot exist a few feet away where the Wisconsin winters kills pesky larvae and disease.

..See the circle of ice that was frozen in the bucket of water when we arrived?

We don’t want to have that happen, so no matter how efficient we can make our greenhouse, we plan to open it to the elements and let it rest for a month or two each winter while Jack Frost kicks some nematode butt.  That’s how Wisconsin soil has kept a lot of the riff raff out for eons.

New agenda:  Back to clearing invasives out of the woods and reopening the savanna.  And as we do, it will be wonderful to take a break in the shelter of our passively warm greenhouse on those beautiful but bitter cold days ahead.

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