It's an cozy, insulated box to promote the germination of our heat-loving crops: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, lemongrass . . . The idea is simple, stolen from Teresa and Brent, our friends/mentors over at Red Tail Farm. Dean drilled a hole in the side of the cabinet for a wire, then installed a light socket. Depending how cold it is outside, we screw in either a 60-watt or 20-watt bulb, then using a not-so-scientific system of plugging in the lightbulb or not, hold temps in the 70–90° range. Trays containing the most tropical plants (the spiciest peppers) take the top shelves, while those that prefer lower temps (lemongrass) get the bottom shelf. As each tray hits maximum germination, we move it into the hoop house for full sun and replace it with a freshly seeded tray.
In the coming week, we'll shift to an even more efficient heat source: Compost. Liz Martin at Muddy Fingers Farm has written about their system, for which we've slowly been assembling the components. Our friends Aaron and Kara over at Plowbreak Farm posted photos of theirs. On Saturday, we picked up mulch hay from Ringneck Preserve and later this week we'll get a load of horse manure and bedding from Kelviden Farm, just a mile from us here on West Hill. Turns out the hardest part was getting our hands on some affordable square bales for the "frames." When we did, you can be sure we stockpiled enough to see us through a couple of years' worth of hotboxes. So far, we're pleased with this year's progress. Here are some of the heirloom tomato seedlings, sunning in the hoop house:
One of the reasons we started Tree Gate Farm was our dual concern about energy and land use. We wanted to live more in tune with our values and demonstrate the possibility of an abundant, satisfying, and rewarding life in which conservation tops the decision tree. As weather patterns shift, we're seeing the value of a diversified system that turns waste -- whether old refrigerators or mulch hay bales and horse manure -- into resource. We're also keeping our fingers crossed that by diversifying our crops and income streams, we'll be able to sustain a farm resilient enough to withstand the crazy times coming our way. Already, we're clear on a critical point: We can't do it alone. Fellow farmers share ideas, resources, even tools. CSA members and our wholesale customers provide critical financial support, and both family and friends have been staggeringly generous with moral support. Thank you, all!