Broad Valley Orchard

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It was a long November!


Well, they say “tis an ill wind that blows no one good”, and as I clean up blown down and wind-sheared off trees in our wood lot, I agree with this wisdom.  But firewood is not our only ‘winter harvest’, and sawing it to length and storing it in our wood shed is not the only storage we do.

Over the past 28 years, we have carefully observed all the various ‘ in house micro-climates’ that we have, and learned to use them to store garden and orchard produce over the winter.  We store quite a bit, not only for our own use, but to make weekly deliveries to our 15  Winter-CSA members thru January, and even into February.

I won’t go into all the details (yet) of where we store our winter stash, and of all the myriad micro-climates that exist in this 1870’s log house, and it’s smaller 1920’s main addition, plus the three shed-like additions added on to the north and south sides, during this last century and near-half.

Suffice it to say, the winter sun shines mostly on the South side of the house.  The cold mountain winter wind blows from the North and the West.  The North side of the house is mostly in the shade.

Also, heat rises, so the two-part basement stays cool in the summer, and relatively warm in the winter.  We use one side (completely unheated) as our root cellar.  The other side, which has our hot water heater (plus our wood stove in the kitchen above it) only stays about 2 degrees F. above the root cellar.  We store our winter apples there.  I also vint fruit wines, and brew summer ales, winter lagers, and hard cider down there.

Of course our south side is our hot side, so we use the well-insulated space, which has six 4’x6′ Macrolux windows (with space blankets installed each night) to heat up six black plastic 55 gallon barrels during the day.  It can get up to 90F in this space on a clear day, so we open its two doors to the house, and let the fire go out during the day, while the sun space gently heats the house.  Judy can start greens’ seedlings out there thru much of the winter.  By the way, we can usually make it thru an average winter using less than two cords of firewood in the wood stove.

We don’t grow salad greens and roots in our sun space, because we also have two 17’x48′ hoop houses.  These each have 4 wide raised beds in them.  We plan on 52 week per year harvest from them.  In the summer, Judy grows all her solamines, and beans in the hoops to dodge the insect onslaught outside.  After she harvests these crops in early to mid-autumn, she then plants the starts from our sun space, and they grow to harvesting size, but then they begin to grow in very slow motion, because of the reduced day light and cold temperatures.  To prevent frost damage, each evening we cover the PVC inner hoops over each raised bed, with two layers of ReMay, which we have to pull back each sunny day.

By this time of the year, we are basically using the hoop house greens and roots as if we are harvesting ‘still-rooted’ plants from a root cellar.  We give them some water, and they get a couple hours of heating to wake up, photosynthesize a bit, and then go back to sleep for the lengthening cold nights.

Does this system work every year?  We have been doing it for over two decades, and it has worked every year.  We have had to open the doors a bit more during our Global Warming winters, and we have to put triple row covers on when we have “White Hell” winters such as the Pinotuvo winters, and some of these weird cold winter weather patterns that are being stirred by climate change.

I can sure see that this is going to complicate world food production for our population of 7 billion  (and some futurists are calling for 12 billion = yoi!) mouths to feed.  Well, my goal is to not feed the world, but to feed our small CSA nearly year around, plus feed ourselves year around.  You can do that, too!

Thom Marti

Certified (or possibly certifiable) Prophet of Doom and Gloom

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