Greenhouse



We’ve been busy on the DaisyPatch homestead. The heat mats in the basement are making seedlings pop up very quickly (4 days for the Husk Cherries to germinate, whereas last year it took weeks without that heat mat!) We started some Arugula and Mache microgreens as well as the tomatoes, husk cherries,  peppers, and poppies we started. I look forward to trying those. The sap buckets are 1/2 full and were only tapped 3 days ago. Keith picked up the plastic for the greenhouse and we are planning a barn raising as soon as the weather permits (3 days of freezing rain expected on the Seacoast starting…ok, just looked outside…starting NOW) AND, we have signs of life outside.

Catnip

Snowy Oregano

I may make some Catnip/Oregano tea just to say, “I grew it.” Maybe not, that sounds gross.

Betty the cat ate all the Catnip I picked after taking this picture, then, she slept all day. She’s allowed, she’s 15. That’s not a bad idea. I deserve a little rest, too, don’t I? Small private vow, the first salad we eat from our greens, I’m going to have it with a cup of Catnip tea and then take a nap. Now that sounds pretty nice.


The continuing story of a chicken coop that’s gone to the dogs (please let me know if you catch that Muppet reference, because it made me giggle to myself a little bit and I need to know if I did that alone or if someone shared it. Thanks.)

Here’s the latest on Ms. Cheever and her fight to keep her chickens. http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20100202-NEWS-2020348

Cheever was told that she was in violation of having more than the town-allotted four domestic pets to a residence, as well as a zoning ordinance that requires a farm to be 200 feet from a neighboring property.

Cheever appealed the finding of Building Inspector Richard Mabey by disputing the town ordinance. 

According to the agriculture zoning ordinance, farm buildings that house four or fewer animals that are not raised or kept commercially, but are for family use or pleasure, shall be exempt from the provisions of being 200 feet of a neighboring property, but rather shall not be erected within 50 feet of a neighboring property.

According to her attorney, Richard Clark, Cheever meets the criteria of this exception.

I love this part: If the ZBA does not grant her variance, Cheever has the right to move her case to superior court due to the conflict of state and town law.

So it isn’t even a matter of – which came first, the neighbor or the chicken, it boils down to – which wins, the State or the town. Either way, rooting for Ms. Cheever.

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On another note, I am not fast enough to take a picture, so sorry, nothing to show here, but for those who know and love him, Mr. Bunny is back. DaisyMae has chased after him twice so far…in the dark. Bitch. Both times, Keith tells me, she’s gotten to a certain point and just stops running, realizing she’ll never catch him.

Hm…I wonder what she’d do if she caught him… Run, Mr. Bunny, run.

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The replacement grow lights finally arrived in the mail (the 48 hours-to-ship promise on the website was a big fat lie!) and we’re back in business. Keith is keeping track of germination rates, watering, venting, installing lights, etc. I look down the basement stairs on occasion and I type. I am trying to feel guilty about it, I am, but I know that my heavy lifting will come when the weather breaks.

We visited the greenhouse supply this weekend and I felt so grown up. Not because of the plans we’re making, more because it was one of those places where, if my parents dragged me there as a kid, I would have been BORED to tears. Wall displays of seedling trays, different installation mechanisms for attaching the plastic to the greenhouse frame, technical information on heating and cooling the greenhouse, info on hydroponics. I would literally have lay down on the floor in a boredom-induced-fake-death. Instead, Keith was like, “Hey, look at this” and I was, “Oh really, neat! What about this?”

We talked tech with the store manager and will be bringing the plastic home and hope to get it on the greenhouse this week (Thanks in advance, Roy, for helping lend a hand and a truck!) It’ll be enough to cover 2 greenhouses. I am sure whether they get the plastic on will depend upon the weather, as it has been snowing for 11 hours now. This pic is from 6 hours ago.

Greenouse frame in the snow. We know, we have to move the firepit!

I plan on building the low tunnels this weekend, again, weather depending, so I can set out that temp gauge and see what I’m dealing with. Over 35 degrees and the Great Lettuce Experiment will commence. Wish us luck!


We’re at a standstill. The grow light in the basement has blown. Keith ordered another and the company promised to ship in 48 hours. We checked a week later – still in the warehouse.  So, he ordered a back-up.  That hasn’t arrived yet either. The seedlings are starting to pop under a fluorescent light which isn’t ideal, some of the hot peppers have already died.

So, we decided to bundle up and get working on the greenhouse. It was 23 degrees on Sunday and we only had the side boards to level and bolt on before putting on the plastic.

Bundle up!

We got out there and discovered the bolts weren’t the right length. Off to Home Depot which, thankfully, is only about 1.5 miles away. We got about 6 bolts on and the bit in Keith’s cordless drill broke. Frustrating (but not too upsetting, I was cold!) So, we went to the bar for some wings and beer. We could have gone to get another bit, sure, but why fight it. It just wasn’t meant to be this weekend.

Meanwhile, we’ve been talking to some of our friends about our project and are getting lots of encouragement. We’re asking local chefs what greens would they want to use, but can’t find locally. I’m all about Mache.  I haven’t ever even tried it, but read about it in The French Laundry Cookbook.

The French Laundry Cookbook

Apparently, Mache is a “microgreen” and is a little delicacy. It also goes by the names, “Lamb’s Lettuce” and “Rapunzel.” I want it just  because of that. “Rapunzel.”  Apparently it grows well in the cold. That’ll work! 

Keith and I went out for sushi the other night and there were some sprouts on top of the chef’s special salad. We think they were radish sprouts – VERY peppery and yummy.

Green Radish Sprouts Photo courtesy https://www.msu.edu

So I’m thinking, can we supply our neighborhood chefs? Lofty goal, I know, but every time I get into something, I always start thinking about how to make it into a business. Mache, sprouts, hot  peppers, lettuce mixes, husk cherries, tomatoes..I can just picture me in an old red Chevy truck, Daisy hanging out one window, pulling up to a local restaurant. In my overalls and checkered shirt, I get out of the truck and pull a basket overflowing with veggies out of the back. I hand it to the chef who has white flour on his nose and greet him by first name. We chat a bit about the weather until Daisy barks, reminding me we have a business to run. I wave to my buddy, the chef, smile as the Chevy door creaks when I open it, and take off to deliver the rest of our garden bounty to our friendly neighborhood restaurants, all of which have “Using Vegetables from The DaisyPatch in North Hampton, NH” on the menu.

Maybe…someday, if the damned lights would show up.


Did I mention we’re getting a second high tunnel? Keith secured a second frame for one, we’ll get it when the ground thaws. We want to fend for ourselves and grow veggies year round, now we’re going to have plenty of space to do so. But how? I don’t have the first clue on growing in the Winter,  for ins anc4.  I think we’re going to have to basically do it the old-fashioned way, try it until we do it right. I mean, it was 19 degrees today, 19!  Sunny, though! We head this weekend to the greenhouse supply store. I am intimidated by the thought. I have been professing for years, “Oh, we had a greenhouse, 3 actually”  followed by some statement about how it’ll be a piece of cake. Well, I just worked there, I didn’t pay to heat it or have any input into the heating of it and now we’re going to have 2! ?

To give a little flashback, in 1984, my Dad got out of the Pharmaceutical Sales industry and he and my Mom decided to follow their passions – Vermont and landscaping – and bought a nursery/garden center/gift shop in southern Vermont. I worked there all Summer while in high school and college, every day after school, and on weekends. I remember being 16 and putting 60 hours on a timesheet. I was there a lot. We all were, we worked a ton of hours. I look back now and I loved it there. I mean, working for your parents has its ups and downs (as is working with your teenage daughter I imagine!), but again, fond memories and it basically gave me the gardening “bug” except – my experience was with herbs and flowers, not veggies.

The nursery had 2 greenhouses, sunny perennial gardens as well as several shade arbors. My Mom basically took care of the inside and Dad took care of the outside. I planted bulbs, herbs, took care of roses, collected flower seeds, packed seed packets and took care of customers. The greenhouses were glass. They had pulley-type systems for opening the vents built in the top and framework built in for hanging plants.

We’ll have nothing quite so grand. We’ll have 2 plastic greenhouses with box fans for venting and a heating system I’m not sure I understand fully. Keith keeps trying to explain, but I’ll have to see it.

Even though what we’re planning is small in comparison to the greenhouses I worked in before, the difference is…these will be ours. They will hopefully, if we do it right, sustain us, along wiht Peber’s Point (Yup, that name is growing on me, the board still hasn’t voted on the name, but I do like it) our chickens and the grow lights in the basement. I wonder if we’re high, but then I realize that we both missed our calling to be farmers and that, if we’re so passionate about it, it is worth taking a leap of faith. Like my parents did. I’m sure they were terrified about not making it, but they were jumping together and that, I think, makes the landing just a bit softer.

So, I’ m ready, I think.


I hope we’re not in over our heads. In addition to the 30’x16′ raised bed garden Keith and his brother built us last year in the side yard, we came across a deal on a frame for a 24’x14’x12′ high tunnel. I think that is funny, “high tunnel” like we’re going to grow some illegal substance in it. My co-worker asked if we were going to build a trap door. Ah, no. To simplify and keep myself from giggling, I’ll just call it the greenhouse. Keith calls it, “Greenhouse #1.” Apparently we’re planning on more.

Keith and our best friend Roy have been chipping away at building and framing the greenhouse on decent days this Winter.  

Roy and Greenhouse #1

Roy working on the framing

More framing work

This was 2 days ago. Yesterday, Keith did more framing. Then, he broke his toe last night. Work might have to be on hold a bit until that heals up. He’s excited about the project, so I’m sure that while his foot is iced and elevated, he’ll be doing more research on the different options of plastic that we can put on it. Who knew there were so many different types of greenhouse plastic. Overwhelming (and boring as hell to me, I’ll let him figure that one out, he’s the engineer!)

Meanwhile, I dream of lettuce. Lots of lettuce. Speckled, ruffled, green, red, purple, loose-leaf, head, oak-leaf… I want lettuce year-round. We regrettably missed the Slow Food Boston  http://www.slowfoodboston.com/index.cfm  film and discussion about the Dervaes family.  This is what the invite said, “While living in downtown Pasadena, [they] grow over 6,000 lbs (yup, you read it right!) of produce. OK, so that seems amazing in and of itself. But consider this: they do it on less than a 1/4 acre.”  Very cool. We want that. I had not heard about them, but joined their Facebook Fan page and will be reading their blog. We really wanted to attend this, but with the broken toe and threat of a Nor’ Easter, we decided to stay home.

I planned on checking out the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange http://www.southernexposure.com/index.html today to start planning our order, but got distracted by deciding to finally clean and organize my side of the bathroom cabinets. I laughed it off a few years ago when Keith called me a hoarder because we discovered 24(!) tupperware containers of chicken and turkey broth in the freezer – homemade is better than store bought anyday. Seems I made them, but never used them. Today, I found 12 travel sized toothpastes, 4 containers of deoderant, and a squillion tampons. I mean, seriously, they were in every nook and cranny of the the under-the sink area plus the three drawers I call mine. There were all wrapped still, but there were no boxes or packages to be found. Perhaps there’s something to his diagnosis…

I woke up at 2:45 this morning with a crashing headache. Jill at the bar makes a mean Cosmopolitan.  I had 2. I couldn’t sleep, so after taking 3 ibuprofin, downing a full glass of water and eating 3 Fudge Stripes (necessary, you’re not supposed to take ibuprofin on an empty stomach!) went into Roy and Jen’s room (what we call our spare bedroom since they are the usual occupants). I tossed and turned there, my aching brain fighting me as I redesigned the side garden in my mind. I need more room for butternut squash. I planted three last year next to three zucchini plants and the butternut never came up- or so I thought. Once the zucchini was done, I pulled them up and tossed them into the brush pile over the fence and there was this WIMPY, yet very long vine growing underneath with the tiniest butternut squash hanging off the end. It was sickly looking and yellow and reminded me, well, of a deformed penis. (Well, it did. I’m supposed to use my true voice right?! Don’t judge.) I fertilized it and laid the vine across the vacant raised bed to give it maximum tanning time. Too late, it got cold and the little, special penisquash got very flaccid and then the slugs moved in the next day. Ick. I just shuddered, that picture obviously still haunts me.

The side garden is fenced in. It has 5 raised beds, a strawberry patch and a perfectly-placed decorative wrought-iron tower/crop-support/tall thingy that I grew the snap-peas on last year. Love that thing. We bought it at some random side-of-the-road wrought-iron sale about 5 years ago. Some guy in a truck pulled up a piece of field next to the gas station and just put out a whole buncha stuff like my tall-thingy, garden arches, and more. We bought that and a fan-shaped trellis.

Besides the butternut squash, I had a few other failures. (I keep saying, “I” because Keith was in charge of the tomatoes and they did awesome, I handled the choosing of the rest of the crops. More on the tomatoes in a later post.) Corn – nothing, well, not quite nothing, more like miniature renditions of corn. Little tassles, little kernels, growing just 4 inches tall, then drying up. Weird, slightly freaky children of the corn. Red onion from seed became little tiny purple marbles with green tops. I replanted them deeper this fall. We’ll see what happens. Tomatillos. That is a whole ‘nother story. I don’t recall ever eating a tomatillo, but I bought 6 seedlings. By the end of the season, we had HUNDREDS of tomatillos growing off these 8-foot high plants that were staked up like odd gangly scarecrows with little green lanterns hanging off every inch. Hundreds of IMMATURE tomatillos. Inedible. I shrouded then at night in landscape fabric during the first few frosts in an effort to prolong their lives and perhaps harvest one or two. I brought a few in and left them on the window sill, hoping something would happen. They were all lost. I’ll skip those this year. Broccoli was also a failure. I heard that wasn’t my fault though. The farmers at the farmers’ market said that the June rain caused their broccoli to fail. Whew. I loved that I had something else to blame besides my own ineptitude.

So, full circle to my first paragraph, I hope we’re not in over our heads. I can grow most flowers and herbs, but vegetables are fairly new to me and a little intimidating. We had enough success last year, the harvest outweighed the failures, so we’re going to forge on. I ordered stickers to go on mason jars that say, “From the Kitchen of Keith and Jenn.” The thought of a cabinet full of jars with those labels makes me happy.

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