And now for something a little different. This is the solarium off the dog wing in a photo I took back in January. Amazingly, there is now no snow outside at all — just a rare piece of ice is all we have left to show for the winter that barely was. (I’ve only plowed three times — I might do that in one week in a normal winter!) But the greens still look that good today, and we eat a lot of them all winter long. In fact, we have salads almost every day, and these 7 raised indoor beds — planted with Bronze Arrow Lettuce, White Russian Kale, and Giant Winter Spinach — provide all of our greens from October until May.
Not only that, but we’ve been able to provide all the greens for our laying flock of hens during the same time. Every day I harvest some for them, including the left-over stuff — broken lettuce leaves, kale stems, etc. They eat it all.
That solarium is only seven feet deep, and about twenty feet long, so it’s not a big space, but the plants keep growing (although slowly) through the winter. The key is to get them planted early enough, in late summer, so they are fully grown by the start of fall harvesting. Once we get to February and more daylight, the plants increase their growth rate again.
At night, we have thick canvas “weather curtains” that we roll down to close off the dog room from the solarium to minimize heat loss. The curtains let just enough heat through that it stays above freezing in the solarium, though on really cold nights we lay row covers over the beds that line the front windows.
I’ve got new spinach seedlings starting in one bed, and Alayne has hundreds of onions starting on tables in the dog room set next to the solarium. It gives them enough light to germinate. So this small space really does wonders for food production.
New Shelter Challenge Underway
A new Shelter Challenge starts today, March 7, and runs until April 10. You can vote every day for us at the Shelter Challenge website. Thank you!